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Council members took the advice of city firefighters and refused Tuesday to act on Mayor William Quinlan's fourth budget proposal, three days before the deadline for its adoption.

The panel finally agreed two hours later to hold a special work session at 6:30 p.m. today to hammer out a plan and to convene a special Council meeting at 9:30 p.m.

"I am telling you the facts. You will be broke if you pass a 4 percent (tax increase) budget," Firefighters Union President Michael Connelly said when the Council sought feedback from an audience of about 60 city workers and their families.

Quinlan's $12.9 million proposal, which would be funded by a 4 percent increase in the tax levy, calls for laying off four firefighters and seven streets and sewer workers, plus eliminating two vacant police positions.

"This would entail layoffs, but after June 1 we could do things in the future to minimize the layoffs," Quinlan said, alluding to possibilities of new revenue sources, union concessions or further departmental restructuring -- all options that he did not detail. The remarks from the audience stalled what appeared to be an impending vote on the plan.

Connelly said the mayor had told firefighters that a 7 percent tax increase would preserve their jobs.

Connelly warned that overtime costs resulting from four layoffs would cause officials to dip into the $400,000 reserve fund within six months. The Council has insisted on maintaining the reserve, which prompted Quinlan's proposal to raise taxes.

The Council had appeared ready to vote on the plan but promptly called for a second closed door discussion, only to emerge more than 30-minutes later to announce the budget would be tabled.

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