LOCKPORT – The Common Council voted last week to hold a public hearing on the 2014 city budget Oct. 9.
So far, however, taxpayers have not been told what kind of budget the Council is considering.
That’s because, in contrast to the Council’s past practice of holding numerous open work sessions regarding the budget, all of this year’s discussions have occurred behind closed doors.
Council President Anne E. McCaffrey said another such meeting is scheduled for Wednesday. “Hopefully, we’ll have something for the public then,” she said.
But the 2nd Ward Republican added that isn’t certain to occur.
The City Charter says the budget is supposed to be adopted at the Council’s first meeting in October, generally held on the first Wednesday of the month.
Once considered politically sacrosanct, the budget adoption rule has fallen by the wayside. It hasn’t been obeyed since 2009.
The last three budgets have been adopted in November, including last year’s vote on Nov. 21, which was believed to be the latest city budget ever.
“I think it’s more important to have the best budget,” said Alderman Kenneth M. Genewick, chairman of the Finance Committee and the only alderman who faces an opponent in the Nov. 5 election.
McCaffrey said she expects a vote on the 2014 budget on Oct. 16.
“A lot of the discussions have revolved around situations that warrant being in executive session,” Genewick said.
The reason given for the closed sessions has been that the Council is discussing labor negotiation topics that pertain to the budget. All five of the city’s unions are working under terms of expired contracts, and Mayor Michael W. Tucker has said the city is seeking concessions.
Another factor is that the budget documents are no longer being generated entirely within City Hall. In February, the Council decided to hire the accounting firm of Lumsden & McCormick for $17,500 to prepare the budget, instead of having an in-house budget director.
John Schiavone and Sara Dayton of the Lumsden firm have been drawing up the documents the aldermen use in the closed meetings.
“A lot of the work is being done by our budget consultant and our department heads,” Genewick said. “We have a lot of work to do. If there are executive session discussions, we need to do that.”