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MAYOR HOPES TO SAVE JOBS CUT IN BUDGET

Mayor William Quinlan said he will try to save more than a dozen jobs not funded in the budget that the Olean Common Council approved late Wednesday night by a 4-2 vote.

The plan, totaling $19.8 million, will require a 4 percent tax rate increase and an 8 percent increase in the city's sewer rates. The $21.5 million draft presented in February would have raised taxes by 50 percent.

Quinlan pledged to try to salvage six jobs in the Public Works Department, six firefighting positions and two vacant police slots by wresting concessions from the city's police, fire and civil service employees' bargaining units.

"There's more realistic, immediate solutions," Quinlan said after the final vote, referring to some stopgap measures he hopes to have in effect soon. "We're working on insurance concessions, but we're also looking at better utilization of manpower and staffing changes so we could lower the overtime in the Police Department."

He said he was close to finalizing a new overtime plan with police that could change scheduling in July from the long-standing shifts of four 10-hour days to a more efficient system of five eight-hour days.

The Public Works Department also might be reorganized, even though earlier budget drafts had not requested funding for the move. That plan would streamline public works accounting, move some workers and centralize all water and sewer billing for greater efficiency.

If the mayor wins union concessions, workers will begin paying 10 percent or 15 percent of the cost of their health benefits sometime this year. But Quinlan's plan still calls for saving more than $250,000 by eliminating the Civilian Dispatch Department and laying off at least three full-time workers.

For almost three hours Wednesday, aldermen met with the mayor in a special work session, trying to devise a fifth budget draft acceptable to a majority of the six Council members at the session. It was the fourth time the Council discussed the spending plan in public. In the process, it took comments from city workers and concerned residents who mostly sought to avert layoffs and cuts in services and safety.

Aldermen tied 3-3 in a vote on Quinlan's offer to refrain from using reserve funds or increasing sewer and water rates.

The 8 percent sewer rate increase, which will add $2.10 to the current rate of $26.27 per 1,000 cubic feet, was accepted as a compromise.

Alderwoman Joyce Melfi and Council President Ray Wangelin voted against the budget.

Wangelin said he did not favor any tax increase exceeding 2 percent tax, while Melfi said it was too late for negotiations with unions and too many unknown factors were associated with the budget.

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