LOCKPORT – The Lockport Common Council Thursday decided not to make any changes in the proposed 2014 budget before voting on it next week.
However, Council President Anne E. McCaffrey told her colleagues to think about the spending plan over the weekend and tell her by Monday if they want to make any last-minute amendments.
“I know Kitty and John are still struggling with the idea of raising taxes. I am, too,” said McCaffrey. She was referring to Aldermen Kathryn J. “Kitty” Fogle, R-3rd Ward, and John Lombardi III, R-1st Ward, neither of whom attended Thursday’s work session.
The budget as it currently stands raises the tax levy by 1.7 percent and increases the tax rate by 2.3 percent, or 34 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation. The 1.7 percent levy increase is the most the city can impose without breaking the state tax cap.
The budget assumes there will be 16 layoffs, including four police officers and eight firefighters. However, Mayor Michael W. Tucker remains confident that changes in police operations and the union contract will prevent those layoffs before Jan. 1.
“I think we can roll with this budget next week,” Tucker said. “We’re going to plan for eight less [firefighters] and four less [police officers], and if we need to, we can change it.”
Several speakers at Wednesday’s public hearing called for restoration of a building inspector position, but the Council didn’t even discuss it.
“If he came back in, we’d have to take another person out,” McCaffrey said.
Tucker explained Building Inspector David Miller is to be laid off because there are two other full-time inspectors, a part-time code enforcer and a secretary in that department.
“Of all the departments you look at upstairs [in City Hall], all the other departments are super-short. Building Inspection is fully staffed. That’s the place that can sustain it [cutbacks] the most,” Tucker said. “That’s the only place that is able to take it and not shut down a department.”
Other layoffs include a senior account clerk in the City Clerk’s Office, a streets laborer and an assistant in the Youth and Recreation Department.
“I don’t like what we have to do, but we have to do it,” said Alderman Patrick W. Schrader, D-4th Ward.
“In light of the fact that we’re taking out bodies, you have to do a combination of bodies and tax increases,” Tucker said. “You have to keep as many bodies as possible.”
John Schiavone of the Lumsden & McCormick accounting firm, who prepared the budget documents, said expense monitoring is “critical,” especially an effort to prevent unauthorized overtime in the most expensive departments, which are police and fire.
Alderman Kenneth M. Genewick, R-5th Ward, said the Finance Committee, which he chairs, should review expenditure reports every two weeks.
He also asked for department heads to report by Wednesday on the budget’s impact on their departments, but his colleagues said there wasn’t enough time for such reports to be compiled. The Council may be able to obtain them by Thanksgiving, said Alderman Joseph C. Kibler, R-at Large.
Schiavone was criticized at Wednesday’s hearing for not considering the impact of layoffs on revenue generation, but Thursday he said there won’t be any such impact.
“I don’t think removing policemen is going to result in less tickets. There’ll still be policemen on the street 24 hours a day. The same with building inspectors,” Schiavone said.