Mayor Michael C. O'Laughlin Wednesday vetoed 12 City Council amendments to his 1991 budget, restoring 15 cents to the tentative residential property rate and 32 cents to the non-residential rate.
The City Council was to meet late today to consider the vetoes. It takes five votes of the Council to override a veto.
O'Laughlin restored $417,950 of the $663,705 that the Council had cut from his proposed $98 million spending plan. The Council's cuts included $298,832 from the general fund; $243,286 from sewer, and $121,587 from water.
As a result of the mayor's vetoes, the residential property rate now stands at $16.45 per $1,000 of assessed valuation and the non-residential rate at $34.85. O'Laughlin's original budget carried proposed tax rates of $16.53 and $35, respectively.
This year's residential tax rate is $16.17, and the non-residential rate is $33.55.
Included in O'Laughlin's vetoes were the restoration of four positions and a portion of the funds the Council had cut from his proposed in-house asbestos removal program.
O'Laughlin restored $62,440 of the $156,715 the Council cut from the asbestos removal budget of $438,000. He said the city would save by having a team on staff rather than contracting out asbestos removal work.
How much would be saved would depend on how much asbestos removal work the city does next year. Already planned is the renovation project at the Public Safety Building. In addition, if asbestos were found in surplus properties set for demolition, the city would have to remove it. The city could be doing more demolition work next year if it begins acquiring and demolishing properties for the proposed East Side mega-mall.
While O'Laughlin restored funds for equipment and a truck, he did not restore four staff positions that the Council cut out of the asbestos program. He said he planned to use some Community Development money to make up for Council cuts from the program.
Positions O'Laughlin restored include the $45,580 deputy controller job. The position has been in the budget for two years, but has not been filled because city officials say they have had difficulty finding qualified applicants willing to work for the proposed salary. O'Laughlin said a candidate has been found who has a background in municipal finance and will accept the salary.
The mayor also restored one existing $29,447 position and one new $44,732 maintenance position at the sewage treatment plant. He said maintenance is one of the key priorities at the plant because the carbon used in the treatment process is very corrosive and causes equipment to rust if it is not cared for.
Also restored was the $44,251 position of project manager for the drinking water treatment plant. The city plans to build a new $65 million water plant and O'Laughlin said it would be prudent to have the manager on board at the beginning of the project.
O'Laughlin restored $100,000 in contingency funds; $1,500 for the city administrator's car allowance; $50,000 for repairs and cleaning of the exterior and roof of City Hall and $35,000 for sanding and cleaning of the exterior of the Convention and Civic Center.
Because of a quirk in the way some pay increases were placed in the budget this year, O'Laughlin was unable to restore 8 to 9 percent increases he had proposed for about 45 non-unionized employees, such as department heads. The salary increases had been placed in the budget in a lump sum, not according to individual positions.
The Council passed a single resolution setting the raises for salaried employees at 5.75 percent. If O'Laughlin had vetoed that resolution the effect would have been to wipe out any raises for the salaried employees, whom the city calls "exempts."
"There have been a lot of upset department heads and exempts," O'Laughlin said after the Council's budget cuts.
O'Laughlin said he recommended 8 percent increases for most salaried employees and 9 percent increases for a few in an "attempt to keep equity" within the salaried employee ranks as well as in relation to union workers. He said that because unionized employees get holiday and overtime pay that salaried employees do not get, sometimes they can make as much as or more than their supervisors.
"They call it a strong mayor form (of government), but sometimes the mayor's hands are tied. . . . Union workers have someone arguing for them. Exempt people don't have anyone to argue for them. There's something wrong with the charter. They're responsible to the mayor, but the Council sets their salaries. There's something wrong with that," he said.