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STUDY FINDS 30 WAYS FOR CITY TO CUT COSTS PRELIMINARY REPORT SAYS SAVINGS COULD TOTAL $25 MILLION EACH YEAR

Buffalo officials got their first look Wednesday at a draft of a long-awaited study of ways to operate city government better and more cheaply.

The $250,000 study by KPMG Peat Marwick contains 30 recommendations that could save the city up to $25 million a year.

Some ideas are new, but several were recommended previously by the Buffalo Financial Plan Commission, a panel of business leaders that reported on the city's financial health about two years ago.

The new suggestions include consolidating youth, recreation and senior citizen services, now provided through the mayor's office and the Parks and Human Resources departments, to save $2.5 million a year. Another proposes using general job titles to give management more flexibility in assigning duties.

The previously made recommendations include consolidating purchasing of supplies and services for the city and school system, establishing or increasing fees for selected city services and changing the management of the city's retirement benefits program.

Lawrence S. Herman, principal consultant for KPMG Peat Marwick, stressed that the study is still in progress and will require fine-tuning over the course of several meetings with Mayor Masiello, the Common Council and city union officials.

"There are only 150 ways to change the City of Buffalo. They're the same 150 ways the Financial Plan Commission found . . . and the same 150 ways that other cities have found," he said.

"What we've got to do is put some teeth into it and make some of it happen. Secondly, what we've got to do is build partnerships to make it happen, because the Council can't do it alone, the mayor can't do it alone. We need union cooperation, employee cooperation and taxpayer cooperation."

The report offers recommendations for cutting costs and increasing revenues, including consolidations, re-engineering, privatizations, restructuring management and upgrading technology at City Hall.

Lawmakers and union representatives reacted coolly to the report.

Kevin Fitzgerald, president of the city inspectors' union, said it lacked union input.

Council Majority Leader James W. Pitts said it offered fewer ideas for structural change than he expected.

"I think many of the Council members are raising questions about whether or not a study of this type -- which repeats some of the recommendations of a study that was done for free -- represents a cost-effective way of using money," he said.

Still, Pitts said many of the new recommendations, including proposals to increase management efficiency, can be useful.

Eva M. Hassett, commissioner of administration and finance, defended the study, noting that at least half of its recommendations are new. Those that impressed her most include consolidating human services.

"That's a whole new area for us," she said. "That alone is a significant amount of money that could be saved for some very visible services."

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