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Local News

November 7, 2012

Council hears complaints on safety, redistricting

ONEONTA — Complaints about the realignment of two wards and concerns over public safety and police ranks prompted some heated discussions Tuesday night at the Common Council meeting in City Hall.

Oneonta Mayor Dick Miller reviewed budget worksheets for this and next year, pointing out that projected deficits for both years have been reduced but still must be considered in the long-term planning for the city’s fiscal welfare. The earlier projected 2012 deficit of $1,061,226 has been reduced to $118,646 in part because of sales tax revenues, he said.

The 2013 deficit originally was projected at $1,118,853 and has been trimmed to $959,442, Miller said, and he provided council members with options to reduce the shortfall further to $428,942.

The plan didn’t suggest layoffs, which Miller favored avoiding, but did recommend removing two vacant police officer positions and two vacant posts in the Department of Public Works for a total savings of $253,000 and reducing the mayor and council member salaries by $16,000.

Several council members objected to removing police officers for public safety reasons.

Maureen Hennessy, council member of the First Ward, also objected to cutting the members pay because in the nine years she has served, members have received one $100 increase.

Miller said the recommended cut of $16,000 included reductions of $7,000 for the mayor’s salary and a $1,500 cut per council member. Pay reductions were considered in part because the city this year hired a manager and responsibilities and work loads are expected to change.

The mayor earns about $19,000 annually, city officials said, and council members earn $7,000.

The proposed budget will be distributed next week as required by the City Charter, a week before being laid on the table at the council meeting of Nov. 20. A public hearing is set for 7 p.m. Nov. 27, and the plan is scheduled for adoption Dec. 4.

The mayor said the council would have another workshop on redistricting and tentatively set it for 6 p.m. Nov. 20, before the next Common Council meeting.

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