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March 20, 2013

Long details Oneonta finances

By Denise Richardson
The Daily Star

---- — Oneonta is fiscally in better shape than most of the cities across the state, the city manager told the Common Council on Tuesday night.

But council members and the mayor should be aware of federal and state mandates — plus trends in sales tax revenues and other economic factors — as a longer-range plan is developed to provide city services and staffing, City Manager Michael Long.

Long presented his first State of the City address to the mayor and council during a meeting in council chambers at City Hall on Tuesday night. The 28-page document included graphs and charts with actual and estimated spending, plus reports from department heads.

View the full report here: (Note: This report is best viewed using Internet Explorer or Chrome.)

The city of Oneonta has about 130 employees, a staff that has declined through attrition by about 10 positions in the past three years. The city’s 2012 general fund was $14.8 million, though the financial books have yet to be closed, Long said.

In the address, Long said Mayor Dick Miller was correct in guiding the city toward a reconfiguration of revenues to balance operating budgets, with objectives toward preserving fund reserves.

Long was hired Oct. 1 as city manager at a salary of $115,000. The position was created by the revised Oneonta City Charter, which was approved by voters in November 2011 and took effect Jan. 1, 2012.

The charter outlines powers and duties of the city manager, who is responsible for day-to-day operations to allow the eight-member council and mayor to focus on policy. The charter also requires the city manager to “communicate a general statement of the affairs of the city, in relation to its finances, government and improvement, to the Common Council.’’

After the meeting, Miller praised Long’s report and said the level of details should convince any skeptic about where the city faces fiscal challenges.

“He did a terrific job,’’ Miller said. The next step is to work on the multiyear plan, and to identify and meet the city’s financial and capital needs, he said.

Larry Malone, council member from the Second Ward and chairman of the council’s Finance Committee, also applauded Long’s work.

“It was a great representation, in terms of a summary of where the city is and the long-term challenges,’’ Malone said. Priorities are to meet costs associated in personnel expenses, and thus city services, and accelerate the timetable to improve the city’s infrastructure, he said.

The city already has accomplished street and other maintenance projects but has “many more needs,’’ including an aging water plant, Malone said. A major challenge with be dealing with limited means to increase revenues, he said.

Long’s report includes a summary of completed and in-progress projects and provides details on assessed property values in recent years. The data, he said, will be useful as the city prepares for “uncertain times ahead.”