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Mayor invites Council input on budget

Mayor David Carucci invited Olean's aldermen to join him in building the city's 2007-2008 budget during a special meeting he led on financial matters.

Carucci must present the first draft of the plan to the Common Council by Feb. 15, and a plan must be adopted by the Council by April 15 for the fiscal year beginning June 1, according to the city's charter.

The city has spent millions of dollars more than it brought in during the past few years, and capital project funds have been diverted, all problems that have come to light during Carucci's first year in office.

Monday, Carucci provided the aldermen independent audits of city finances for the fiscal years 2005-2006 and 2004-2005.

Some of the discussion during the meeting brought out the need for integrating two older computer systems so financial reports can be used in a timely fashion.

Most of the aldermen said Tuesday that they had not had time to read the audits from 2004 through 2006.

Carucci has invited them to another meeting at 5:30 p.m. Thursday to discuss the two thick reports with the auditing firm, Buffamante Whipple Buttafaro.

A report on a state comptroller's audit of the city's financial condition is expected to arrive within weeks, and Carucci said current balance sheets should be available soon from auditing staff to use as a basis in the 2007-2008 budget preparation.

Carucci has criticized aldermen for approving deficit budgets in the past without demanding financial background and reports that were never prepared by the city auditor, whose resignation will be effective next week. The city is now advertising for a new auditor to take over the job.

The meeting was an attempt at cooperation. Carucci said he called the meeting because the Council asked him to freeze spending, which he has not done.

He said the meeting brought him and the Council together in the same room for a conversation.

He said the aldermen will be invited to attend his budget talks with department heads to help construct the budget from the beginning.

He said they will be given a "grass- roots" explanation of the budgetary line items.

Council President Ray Wangelin of the Third Ward said he wants to see the Council and mayor working together but the budget should begin with the mayor working with the department heads.

He described the city's financial position as "bleak" and said he has just started to digest the two prior year-end reports.

"I think our education is more to be a watchdog over finances and know where they are going. It's going to be a tough year," he said.

"We keep talking about how we got into this and who to blame. Now let's put the focus on what to do to get out of the dilemma and see what drastic measures need to be taken."

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