By REBECCA WEBSTER
Recorder News Staff
Three city of Amsterdam residents and one city official gave their thoughts to Common Council members Tuesday evening during the city's budget hearing, with concerns ranging from the user fees to the transportation department.
John R. "Chet" Watroba was the first to take the podium, telling the council that he has been paying taxes since 1991 and has watched the changes in the taxes and fees. Watroba said he felt the user fees "are killing the city" and felt the council could "put a kibosh" on that.
"These user fees don't have to keep going up on this," Watroba said. "It's time to make tough decisions."
Diane Hatzenbuhler, who also spoke during the public hearing, echoed Watroba's concerns on the fees, telling the council that the city "can't afford fees going up."
During last Saturday's meeting in City Hall when the council adopted the proposed budget, council members also adopted a resolution to override the 3 percent user fee cap.
Though the overall sewer rate went down, both water and sanitation rates went up because the budgetary costs for expenses required them to go over three percent, said Gerard DeCusatis later in the evening.
Council members briefly brought this up at the end of the regular council meeting Tuesday saying they would like to reconsider the decision to override the cap and will do so at another budget meeting next week.
Aside from user fees, residents also brought attention to raises in the city.
"You can forego it this year," Watroba said. "There's nothing that says you need a pay increase each year."
Watroba urged the council to "start doing things right" and brought up the fact that even though it is an election year, people are fed up in the city.
Hatzenbuhler also took issue with the raises, specifically for the Recreation Department and for DeCusatis.
"The salary for the Recreation Director, a $10,000 increase, is absurd," she said. "I'm not saying that the man doesn't do a good job, but nobody gets a $10,000 increase in this day and age when people can't find jobs."
She also felt the assistant position shouldn't have a change in hours.
As for DeCusatis, Hatzenbuhler questioned the raise that was added to this year's proposed budget.
"He's supposed to be a part time corporation counsel," she said, "yet we're paying him an astronomical amount of money just because he's bailed us out on the budget this year?"
Sandy Rojinski, another resident at the hearing, questioned whether it was a "conflict of interest" that DeCusatis take on a counsel position of the village of Hagaman.
Rojinski was also vocal about the transportation department, telling council members that something has to change as the department is pulling too much from the fund balance. Rojinski said he wasn't sure if a deal could be made with the county in regard to providing city residents transportation, but he felt it was worth looking in to.
The final commenter of the evening was City Engineer Richard Miller who simply asked the council to reconsider his initial request to give more hours to his staff.
"We can do a lot more work with 40," he said. "I don't know if it's possible or not, but I'm just asking."