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Local News

November 19, 2012

Oneonta council weighs budget options for 2013

ONEONTA — Two vacancies in the Oneonta Police Department are under a microscope as the mayor and Common Council review the proposed 2013 budget.

The proposal, which maintains a tax levy increase within the state-mandated 2 percent limit, will be put before the council during its meeting in Council Chambers in City Hall at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oneonta Mayor Dick Miller said Sunday.

A budget hearing is scheduled for Nov. 27, and the council must approve the budget as presented or amended Dec. 4, he said.

Miller said council members have been more involved than in recent years in developing next year’s spending plan.

The general fund budget for 2013 is presented with a deficit of $457,000, which reduces a previous estimate based on cuts recommended by the mayor.

The recommended cuts include two vacant positions in the police department and two vacant operator positions in the public works department. Miller said there are no layoffs in the proposed budget.

At the most recent council meeting, several council members objected to removing police officer lines from the budget based on concerns for public safety.

Miller said in a memorandum to the council last week that he is ``firmly committed to a policy of removing current vacancies in all departments from the budget’’ to make any hiring decision a new position.

“I see no other way of avoiding or minimizing layoffs in the future, unless we take full advantage of this strategy,’’ Miller said.

As part of the process of reviewing the budget and public safety issues within the city, Miller said, a task force to study staffing and services of police will be formed. Miller said he awaits names of five union police members to schedule the first meeting.

Miller said expenses for the police department account for 32 percent of the budget.

“It’s hard to constrain a budget without constraining the police department,’’ Miller said.

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