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Oswego residents speak out on proposed 81 percent tax hike

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Oswego residents speak out on proposed 81 percent tax hike
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A budget proposal is on the table that includes an 81 percent tax hike in Oswego. As YNN's Sarah Blazonis reports, many people are speaking out against the massive increase.

OSWEGO, N.Y. -- City lawmakers say after years of dwindling revenue, 0 percent tax increases, and other financial issues, it's finally catching up with Oswego. The mayor's proposed $34.5 million budget includes an 81.25 percent tax increase.

The increase has residents and business owners wondering about their future.

"This, for my family, will be devastating, but I'm more concerned for the elderly people or the people that are below poverty level," said Oswego resident Christina Chamberlain.

"Is this going to affect our landlord? Does that mean our rent will go up? If our rent goes up, that means less money for us to purchase new inventory," said Bernadette Crisafulli, owner of A Touch of Grace, a gift shop on W. 1st St.

Speakers voiced their concerns at Monday's Common Council meeting.

Mayor Thomas Gillen says the average home assessed at $70,000 will see a $400 increase in property taxes. The vast majority of that goes towards three city departments: police, fire, and public works.

"The neighborhoods required that we increase our police force to get up to standards so that we can enforce the laws to make our neighborhoods safe. We have decreased our fire department already through attrition and the DPW is really the operational side of our city," said Mayor Gillen.

Several people at Monday's meeting urged councilors to look at every alternative and possible cuts to bring the hike down, but councilors say that's no easy task.

"You can cut the mayor's salary, you can cut councilors salaries, you can cut everybody sitting on that far side over there that are all department heads and all their staf...we're still going to have a 71 percent tax increase," said Council president Ronald Kaplewicz.

Councilors cautioned those at the meeting that tough choices would have to be made and difficult cuts are likely ahead.

The public is expected to have more opportunities to learn about the budget and voice their concerns. An information and question and answer session is scheduled for December 19th at Oswego Middle School. That will run from 6:30 to 8:30.

A public hearing will also be held on December 23 at 7:10 in the Common Council Chambers. That's also the day councilors are scheduled to vote on the budget.

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