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LOCKPORT – The Common Council will vote Wednesday on a 2013 city budget that keeps the property tax rate exactly the same as this year’s but portends major changes in city operations.

The $22.5 million budget, completed at a work session Monday, avoids layoffs but includes deep cuts in overtime allocations for the major departments.

The spending plan includes a reduction of almost $769,000, or 6.5 percent, in wages even though the only jobs being cut are five expected retirements.

“We cut overtime drastically,” Mayor Michael W. Tucker said.

For example, the Police Department’s overtime allocation is to be reduced from this year’s $275,000 to only $50,000.

The police overtime total hasn’t been that low since 2001.

The Fire Department overtime budget is to be cut from $360,000 to $50,000. The streets maintenance overtime budget would go from $90,000 to $25,000.

“There are certain assumptions in this budget that assume changes in the way we operate,” Budget Director Richard P. Mullaney said.

He spoke of “emergency-only overtime” in the Police and Fire departments.

The changes, including a projected $314,000 reduction in the cost of fringe benefits, primarily health insurance, all have to be worked out in talks with the five city unions, whose contracts all expire Dec. 31.

“If those things don’t change, you have to re-evaluate your budget,” Mullaney said.

Tucker hinted that he thinks some of the cuts may go too far.

“I’ll sit down with the unions going forward. Some of [the retirees] need to be replaced,” he said. The retirements are in police, fire and public works.

“We’re making some assumptions,” Tucker said.

For example, the city is assuming that Niagara County Manager Jeffrey M. Glatz is correct in his proposed 2013 county budget, which projects a 4.28 percent increase in sales tax revenue next year.

Tucker said if that’s right, some of that will trickle down to the city, so the city’s sales tax take was increased by 2 percent, or $70,000, and the additional money was placed into a public works overtime account.

The spending total is actually down 3.1 percent, or $721,676, from this year’s budget.

The amount to be collected in property taxes also is down, by $85,000 or eight-tenths of 1 percent.

And the tax rate remains at $14.73 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

Alderwoman Kathryn J. “Kitty” Fogle, R-3rd Ward, said the budget is “realistic” and she will vote for it.

“We’re not raising taxes,” she said.

“The tax base just won’t support the current level of benefits,” Mullaney said,

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com