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December 5, 2012

City approves budget, keeps police position

The Daily Star

---- — The Oneonta Common Council approved a $20.6 million budget Tuesday night and an amendment that restored one of two police officer positions.

Council members approved the budget by a 6-to-2 vote and the amendment by 7 to 1 during a meeting at City Hall. The approved $20.6 million budget includes waters, sewer, enterprise and miscellaneous funds and a general fund of $14.87 million.

The general fund had a deficit of $496,117, which was met by an appropriated fund balance, Meg Hungerford, city director of finance, said.  The general fund is supported by a real property tax levy of $4.45 million, which is up 2 percent and meets the state-mandated cap.

The general fund tax rate is $14.09 per $1,000 of assessed value, which is up about 34 cents or 2.5 percent because of a decrease in taxable assessments, Hungerford said previously. A homeowner with a property assessed at $80,000 will see an increase in the 2013 tax bill of about $27.

Also, the library tax levy rate is $1.26 per $1,000 of assessed value, which is up about 4 cents or 3 percent. The council approved the budget’s levies 7 to 1.

Figures in the general fund budget were influenced by concerns about police department staffing. Among budget options presented by Mayor Dick Miller was a plan with a $457,000 deficit that included cutting two vacant police officer positions. In recent weeks, council members debated the loss, its impact on public safety and the formation of a task force to study police staffing, resources and service levels.

On Tuesday night, First Ward council member Maureen Hennessy, chairwoman of the Human Resources Committee, introduced a budget amendment to add $75,400 to the budget for one police officer position. Eighth Ward council member Chip Holmes cast the sole “no’’ vote.

Fourth Ward council member Michael Lynch had lobbied since the budget was laid before the council to return both positions to the budget. He moved an amendment to restore them, but it failed for lack of a second.

Madolyn Palmer, Fifth Ward council member, said “for the record’’ that she wanted the task force on police to look at restoring the second position.

After the meeting, Police Chief Dennis Nayor said the approved amendment was a “step in the right direction’’ and he looks forward to the task force work with hopes the department will be fully staffed.

Also during the meeting, the council approved offering a police officer job to Anthony Capristo. If further reviews are completed successfully, the council may be able to make an appointment in January, Kathy Wolverton, city personnel manager, said.

Officials announced that A.J. Tayor, a detective, would be retiring from the department at the end of the year.

City Manager Michael Long said finance staff and department heads pulled together in developing the budget to have a “great document.’’ He also thanked the mayor for leading a budget process that focused on critical areas.

The mayor presented the budget this year, but Long, who joined the city Oct. 1, will as city manager be responsible for presenting the plan next year.

In other business Tuesday night at City Hall, the council approved a redistricting plan for city wards, an ordinance amending rules of conduct for peddling and ordinances regarding expenses for public improvements and for property tax penalties. The mayor set public hearings for the measures for 7 p.m. Dec. 18.