SHARON – Property owners will find the real estate tax levy the same in Sharon when their city tax bills arrive next spring. Council adopted a budget Thursday that doesn’t include a property tax increase.
The $8.2 million million spending plan is about 5 percent higher than last year’s budget. It calls for no layoffs or service cuts, City Manager Scott Andrejchak said.
Health and pension costs caused a lot of concern this year, he said.
The city’s insurance premium with new provider United Health Group, is 16 percent higher than last year’s cost. The city switched from Highmark, which had wanted a 38-percent rate hike.
“Sixteen percent is a lot better than 38 percent but we are still paying a lot for health care,” Andrejchak said. “With the increase in rates and reimbursements we have to pay, our health care costs will be going up about 20 percent. It’s not like two years ago when we saw a 28-percent rate reduction. There were just enough savings this time to balance the budget.”
Health care is budgeted at $862,000 for next year.
City workers will pay 12.5 percent of the insurance premium as well as deductibles under the health care plan.
The cost to fund pensions for Sharon police, firefighters, street workers and other city employees will be $1.3 million. State pension aid of $391,000 will lower city taxpayers’ share to $936,000.
“That’s still about $1 million in an $8 million budget and that’s a high figure,” Andrejchak said. “Our issue lately isn’t a revenue problem, it’s an expense problem. Health care and pensions are a big part of that. They are increasing at much more than the rate of inflation.”
Andrejchak said he and department heads will keep working hard to find ways to provide services without increasing taxes.
Council President Ed Palanski said “it’s the consensus” of council that any job openings that may occur “will be scrutinized as to when they can be filled.”
One of the reasons for that is the city’s decades-old policy of paying retirees for any unused sick days when they retire.
“For some of them, that’s $18,000 to $25,000 and we have never budgeted for that,” Palanski said. “I think our intention is not to fill any positions until that money is run off.”
Council will have a meeting Dec. 29 to formally enact the 29.51 mill tax rate for next year.