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      $2 million needed to avoid raise in city taxes

      City Manager James Taylor says the city will have to find $2 million in the budget to avoid raising taxes

      Among other things, city commissioners need to reduce services, raise taxes, or a little of both if they plan on having a balanced budget come July. And raising taxes by a little may not garner enough revenue.

      The value of property in the city of Albany has not gone up; it's gone down because things have come off the tax roll. Over 24% of the property on the digest is nontaxable, churches, nonprofit hospitals, so we have a very small group of properties to provide all these services, says City Manager James Taylor.

      The city has actually decreased the millage rate by 2.2 mils over the past five years. Taylor says they're not asking for that much of an increase, but an increase may be considered because services are more expensive.

      I can't provide them at the same price I provided them five or ten years ago when the price of gas is twice as much and utilities cost have gone up 15%.

      Now on top of other economic challenges, like the rise in fuel prices, the city commission also has to figure out a way to cut out MEAG funds because, frankly, they won't be around much longer.

      MEAG funds were funds set aside by certain cities in the event of the deregulation of natural gas. The city of Albany receives $3 million a year until 2018.

      And our goal is going to be getting to the point of increasing revenues or decreasing expenses or a combination of both so that we don't need those funds and we can begin to use those for special projects or to put them away for the future, says City Finance Director Kris Newton.

      The question is how do you do the right business thing to serve the citizens and have little impact on them? And we hope we do it well. We're going to try, adds Taylor.