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COUNCIL GETS SUMMARY OF 3 BUDGET CUTTING SESSIONS

City Clerk and Budget Director Richard P. Mullaney distributed a budget worksheet to the Common Council Wednesday, summarizing the results of the Council's first three budget-cutting sessions leading up to the planned adoption of the 2000 spending plan.

At present, the general fund budget, which is paid for primarily through property taxes, stands at $16,345,598, which would be an increase of 2.67 percent.

However, that would yield a property tax rate of $13.46 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, which would be an increase of 7.71 percent from this year's $12.49.

So far, the Council has lopped $1,657,563 off the budget requests the departments submitted. Buffalo News calculations showed those "wish lists," if funded in full, would have produced a tax rate of $16.56, an increase of 32.6 percent.

Mullaney said the largest cuts made so far from the departmental spending requests include $144,000 in refusing to reinstate four firefighter positions, and $254,000 in cutting a firefighters' retirement buyout plan.

In addition, the Council has discussed moving some equipment purchases from the regular budget into the capital improvements program, meaning they will be bought with the proceeds of bond issues. These include an $85,000 ambulance and a $36,000 triple-deck lawn mower.

Mullaney said the Board of Estimate and Apportionment, which includes the mayor and the top department heads, had recalculated available revenues by agreeing to spend half of a $350,000 debt reserve fund. In addition, $400,000 in general fund surplus money will be tapped.

The Council scheduled another work session for today, and more are expected before the budget is adopted Oct. 6. A public hearing will be held at 7 p.m. next Wednesday, but as always, the budget will be unfinished when that hearing is held.

On another topic, the president of the company that operated the city marina this season said his firm lost money this year, but he still wants the contract renewed for next year.

Oren D. Barris, president of Paths, Peaks and Paddles, said his company lost between $10,000 and $12,000 running the Goehle-Widewaters Marina and attempting to rent bicycles, canoes and kayaks to visitors.

Even so, Barris told the Council he wants a fast answer on whether his company's contract will be renewed.

Barris, however, also asked the Council to allow him to reduce the weekday hours at the marina on the Erie Canal. He said there is "no way" anyone can make a profit if they are required to staff the marina from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week.

He called for allowing staff to report at noon Monday through Friday.

In other matters:

Mullaney reported that Sprint Spectrum of Rochester is interested in installing a digital telephone antenna on the top or side of the Outwater Park water tower.

A letter from the company indicated the firm is willing to pay as much as $1,200 a month and would be willing to sign a contract for as long as 25 years.

The Council will vote Oct. 6 on letting Sprint Spectrum test its equipment at the water tower.

The Council agreed to send a few old vehicles to a large auto auction in Erie County next month. It rejected the idea of holding its own auction at City Hall.

"We've got to go where the buyers are," said Alderman Timothy M. Kirsch, R-1st Ward.

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