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Confusion during budget talks blamed for shortfalls

Confusion during the 2007-2008 budget talks was blamed for a $39,000 shortfall in building fund accounts for telephone use and services as the City of Olean began the new fiscal year, forcing the transfer of money from the $300,000 contingency fund during Tuesday night's Common Council meeting.

Mayor David Carucci told aldermen meeting in committee before the Council's regular session that money was not properly allocated as cuts were made and 27 different drafts of the budget were negotiated. The problem didn't show up until the city clerk recently received a bill and realized there were inadequate funds in the account.

The contingency fund also was the source of a $15,000 transfer to pay wages of six seasonal streets workers for pothole repairs, a task that has been delayed because the city laid off two workers due to the city's $4.3 million deficit. That resolution was approved, 6-1, with Alderwoman Linda Edstrom casting the only opposing vote.

"Doesn't that tell us something about our budget process that the phones can be shorted?" commented Edstrom during the vote to transfer the $39,000. She called on the Council to come up with a better system for budget preparations.

Alderman John Padlo asked for Carucci's assurance that all department heads will review their budgets to make certain that all necessary funding has been allocated to the proper accounts. When he said the Senior Center recently discovered that department's budget was cut $10,000 instead of an expected $5,000, Carucci said that the $10,000 budget cut was clear during the budget talks.

After the vote, Alderman Michael Kayes pointed out that Carucci took full responsibility for the funding problems but said the aldermen also share in the responsibility.

"We looked for things to cut, but we didn't look for the things that should be there [in the budget]," he said.

In another matter, the Council voted to increase ambulance rates to conform to the Medicare fee schedule as follows: oxygen, $40; mileage, $12.50 per mile; ALS Emergency, $490; BLS Emergency, $425; BLS Non-emergency, $360.

Carucci asked the aldermen to consider a list of proposed traffic ticket increases that would raise parking meter violations from $5 to $15 and would increase fines for parking in a handicapped spot from $50 to $75 in the first offense.

The Council later this month will consider amendments to the city code to add a $250 administrative fee to fines imposed for failure to shovel sidewalks, cut grass and remove garbage from property.

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