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Local News

November 20, 2013

Common Council OKs 2014 budget

Concerns about funding positions in the police and fire departments were raised again Tuesday night before the Oneonta Common Council approved a 2014 budget by a vote of 5 to 2.

The $15,314,600 general fund budget for 2014 carries a $4,515,615 tax levy, which is up $69,799 or 1.57 percent. A homeowner with a property assessed at $100,000 would see a city tax bill of $1,432.55, an increase of $24.04. Under the plan, $538,000 of unassigned fund balance would close a shortfall.

The council will hold a public hearing on the plan at City Hall at 7 p.m. Monday and will vote on adopting the budget Dec. 3.

Last month, Oneonta Mayor Dick Miller announced that the 2014 budget proposal carried a $2 million deficit, and city officials and the council have since been wrestling with cuts. An earlier version proposed cutting four unfilled public safety positions, two each from the police and fire departments, for a savings estimated at about $250,000.

City officials and council members debated at recent meetings the impact of costs and coverage, and about 30 police and fire department members attended a meeting to urge that positions be maintained.

The version presented by city manager Michael Long last week for adoption maintained the four positions with a caveat that staff may have to be cut in later years. About 70 percent of the city’s costs are personnel expenses, he said.

At City Hall on Tuesday night, council members Bob Brzozowski of the Seventh Ward and Chip Holmes of the Eighth Ward voted against the budget proposal because they said it didn’t go far enough to address personnel costs and preserve the city’s reserves.

Other members supporting the budget and applying the $538,000 said the spending plan is in line with the council’s five-year plan to eliminate the city’s structural deficit.

However, Brzozowski said, the agreement was to apply that amount and not about fiscal factors in the budget, which he described as using too much of the city’s “rainy day fund.”

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