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Local News

November 13, 2013

City budget avoids police, fire cuts

The Oneonta city budget proposal for 2014 includes two police and two firefighter positions that were on the chopping block.

The four public safety jobs would have been unfilled positions removed from the budget, not layoffs, and would have resulted in a savings of about $250,000, officials said.

Common Council members at last week’s meeting indicated support for maintaining those jobs, and City Manager Michael Long responded to that feedback in the budget laid on the council table Tuesday.

However, Long recommended that the city fill only one position in each department and re-evaluate the other vacant positions six months into next year and re-prioritize the capital plan’s impact on long-term use fund balance.

The council, mayor and city manager have been wrestling with a structural deficit in the city’s budget and projected expenses that outpace revenues.

The $15,314,600 general fund proposal for 2014 carries a $4,515,615 tax levy, which is up $69,799 or 1.57 percent, according to Long’s memorandum on the budget. A homeowner with a property assessed at $100,000 would see a city tax bill of $1,432.55, reflecting an increase of $24.04 from the previous year, he said.

Under the proposal, the city would use $538,000 of unassigned fund balance to close a shortfall.

The administration and council have been reviewing budget figures and needs closely since October, when the mayor announced that the 2014 budget proposal carried a $2 million deficit, based on revenues of about $14.5 million and spending estimated at $16.7 million.

Long, in his budget message, cautioned that maintaining the existing staffing plan means that the recommended gradual decrease in the use of the unassigned fund balance may result in need to terminate employees in later years.

About 70 percent of city costs are related to personnel expenses, Long said, and to reduce dependency on using the fund balance, vacant positions must be evaluated.

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