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Budget hearing tonight Council still making cuts

Tuesday, May 13, 2014 - Updated: 10:03 AM

By NICOLE ANTONUCCI

nicole.antonucci@recordernews.com

The city budget was once again on the chopping block as the Amsterdam Common Council discussed more cuts at a work session Monday.

During the two-hour meeting, the council focused on contractual line items and discussed potential cuts for each department that would lower the increase in the budget's general fund.

"We need to be at 1.46 percent," city Controller Matthew Agresta said.

The first item to be discussed was Mayor Ann Thane's proposed budgets for marketing and contractual expenses. Fourth Ward Alderwoman Diane Hatzenbuhler suggested the marketing budget be reduced from $10,300 to $7,500 but the rest of the council said they were not sure what items were being funded in both budgets and suggested waiting until they could review a breakdown of those funds.

Second Ward Alderwoman Valerie Beekman also asked if the city would be responsible for expenses Thane accrued for conducting business with the state Conference of Mayors. Hatzen-buhler said no.

"I am looking at it at the standpoint that she is the mayor of the city and if she wants to do NYCOM business she gets paid by NYCOM," Hatzenbuhler said. "We can't afford to pay her hotel, meals and her expenses with NYCOM. She should get some sort of allowance."

Third Ward Alderman Ronald Barone Sr. suggested that they find out from NYCOM what is reimbursable.

"This is great for her but not on the taxpayers' expense," Barone said.

Another department that could see a decrease is the fire department. First Ward Alderman Edward Russo raised concerns about the number of higher ranking members in the department versus average firefighters and asked for a cost comparison.

"I don't want to hurt anyone and I don't want to cut anyone but when you look at it you have all chiefs and no Indians," he said.

Hatzenbuhler raised concerns about overtime and suggested more cuts in overtime.

Barone agreed. "It is time to cut back. Nobody understands the budget crunches. People got to understand the party is over," he said.

Hatzenbuhler said after reviewing the fire report during the past three years, she has come to realize how few fires there are in the city.

"Our $60,000 firefighter is doing other stuff. It's unfortunate because they are very well paid," she said. "This is a very expensive department."

Another department that could see a cut is the corporation counsel after Hatzenbuhler questioned how the money is used. The council suggested reducing the budget by $5,000.

At the end of the meeting Agresta said that the tentative general fund was at a 1.5 percent increase over last year but there is an anticipated decrease to the transportation budget, which could help.

If the budget were to remain as is, Agresta said residents could see a tax rate increase of 23 cents per $1,000 of assessed value over last year.

There would also be a 58 cent increase to the water fund, a $3.28 increase to the sewer fund, and a $6.18 decrease to sanitation for the year.

Hatzenbuhler said the figures are tentative until the budget is finalized.

There will be another budget meeting today at 5 p.m. followed by the public hearing at 6 p.m.

     

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