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City budget line items Vetoes issued; overrides next?

Friday, June 13, 2014 - Updated: 10:09 AM

By CASEY CROUCHER

casey.croucher@recordernews.com

Mayor Ann Thane issued line item vetoes to the Common Council's 2014-15 budget Thursday afternoon, and the council is already talking about overriding her actions.

"I'm happy with the budget we made and I don't plan on changing it," 3rd Ward Alderman Ronald J. Barone Sr., said.

Thane, who issued nine vetoes, said she did so because some of the changes the council made were "not in the best interests of city taxpayers."

One objection Thane was adamant about was the removal of the corporation counsel's secretary at a salary of $31,211.

She said the elimination would remove the "only staff support of the corporation counsel." She argued the secretary is a confidential position that cannot be given to other clerical staff and existing city employees don't have enough time to perform the duties correctly.

"The corporation counsel's office handles labor negotiations and employee discipline," she said. "These sensitive matters cannot be assigned to non-confidential employees."

Thane also said the corporation counsel does a number of duties that leave little time for secretarial work.

"Without sufficient staff support, the corporation counsel will be forced to spend precious time on matters that are administrative rather than on the critical functions of the law department," she said.

The mayor also objected the council's reduction of the golf fund administrative charges from $50,000 to $10,000. She said the modification doesn't account for the services provided by all the other city funds to the golf enterprise.

"Watering the course alone costs the city over $80,000 a year," she said. "This reduction causes city taxpayers and user fee payers to subsidize the golf fund. This is unfair."

She objected to several other cuts, including a reduction of $8,731 from the allocations section of the controller's budget for accounting interns. She said the removal of resources from that department is "not warranted, given the significant accounting challenges the city faces."

She also objected to:

* a $2,100 reduction in the contractual shared services allocation, saying the adjustment would "negatively impact the ability to maintain City Hall;"

* a $4,000 reduction in allocation for records management equipment saying it's "necessary to address the poor condition of the records management functions in the city;"

* a $16,000 reduction in funding for cleanup weeks because the change will make it "impossible to have a cleanup week without a budget modification" and "it's critical to the cleanliness and health of [the] city;"

* the removal of the Department of Public Works supervisory position at a salary of $56,363;

* the removal of the employee relations/civil service staff at a salary of $38,509; and

* a $46,076 reduction in funding for a police officer position based on expected retirement.

Barone said the budget process was "tough" this year and the council worked hard to come up with a budget everyone on the council was happy with.

"All people want to do is spend, spend, spend, but sometimes you need to stop, stop, stop," he said. "Sometimes you just can't afford what you don't have, and right now we don't even know what's in our fund balance, so we had to make some cuts."

He did say the adopted budget could be better.

"[The budget] is not that bad, but I actually think some other things should be cut next year," he said. "I plan on voting to override the mayor's vetoes; we don't see eye-to-eye."

First Ward Alderman Edward Russo also said he would vote to override.

"We put the budget together and we want to keep that budget the way it is," Russo said. "We made those cuts because we had to. Maybe during the year if we find that we need something [we cut] we'll put it back in. Until we know where we stand we'll keep the budget the way it is."

Russo said the key to the city's success is if the council and the mayor can start working together instead of against each other.

"We need to work together here. She just wants to do things her way. If we work together, things would run smoother," he said.

The council will meet Tuesday in the Amsterdam High School auditorium at 7 p.m. to discuss Thane's vetoes.

     

Comments made about this article - 1 Total

Posted By: On: 6/13/2014

Title: Politics even in choosing a meeting room

If fifty people were to show up for the budget hearing in the City Hall meeting room, the report would be: "an overflow crowd packed the chamber." Put the same number in the massive High School auditorium & the report will be: "the meeting was sparsely attended."

Comment on this article

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