LOCKPORT – The tax increase in the 2013 city budget currently stands at 6.8 percent, Common Council President Joseph C. Kibler said Friday, but the figure is completely dependent on the city’s five unions accepting concessions in health insurance and other areas.
Those cuts have been included in the budget but haven’t been approved by the unions, whose contracts all expire at the end of the year.
“We haven’t seen any city numbers,” said Kevin Pratt, president of the Lockport Professional Fire Fighters Association.
Mayor Michael W. Tucker said the first meeting with the unions is set for 5 p.m. today.“They got two alternatives: they can accept it, or we start laying people off,” Kibler declared.
“I feel confident they’ll help us get to where we need to be,” Tucker said.
Pratt said he doesn’t consider today’s meeting – to be held in Common Council Chambers with the entire Council, Tucker and Budget Director Richard P. Mullaney, but without a city attorney – to be a real negotiating session.
“I’m hoping they serve drinks,” Pratt joked. “I’ve never had nighttime negotiations before.”
Pratt said his union is open to savings and actually suggested some a year ago.
“We came to the city at the end of last year and tried to negotiate savings for the 2012 budget and 2013. The city’s position was that it was too late in the year,” Pratt said.
He said the union is open to concessions “as long as it’s fair and equal … If it doesn’t work out and we have layoffs, layoffs should be the same way.”
“We’re looking for some things across the board,” Tucker said.
Nearly a month ago, Mullaney told the Council that to keep current levels of employment and benefits, there would have to be a 25.64 percent tax increase.
Since then, the Council has been laboring, mostly behind closed doors, on reductions.
Kibler said many of the cuts made so far would have to be agreed to by the unions. “I can’t really say [what they are] until we share it with the unions, but I think they should go along with it,” Kibler said.
Tucker said besides cuts in spending, the estimates of non-property tax revenues have been raised, with a net increase of $250,000. Two new positions suggested for the budget, a housing inspector and a police officer, have been deleted, but the proposed city marketing director post is still included.
The City Charter says the budget is supposed to be adopted at the first Council meeting in October, but for the third consecutive year, city officials are ignoring that rule.
A public hearing on the budget is set for 6 p.m. Tuesday. The Council expects to vote on it Nov. 21.