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SPEAKERS RAP BUDGET PLAN AT HEARING

The speakers at Wednesday's public hearing on the proposed 2002 city budget didn't have much good to say about it.

The plan stands at $24.38 million after cuts the City Council made since Mayor Thomas C. Sullivan submitted the budget Sept. 12.

That spending level would produce a 15.89 percent increase in the amount to be collected by property taxes, even though the rate per $1,000 of assessed valuation would actually decrease by 0.32 percent.

The city went through a property revaluation this year, meaning it can collect more money with a tax rate similar to this year's $13.26.

And more money is needed, City Clerk and Budget Director Richard Mullaney said, primarily because fringe benefits, including health insurance, are way up.

"We received a call from our provider that said, 'Anticipate a double-digit increase,' " Mullaney said.

Sullivan said the city is determined to provide the same level of police and fire services, but Gerald Braun of Hoover Parkway said, "Maybe in a city with a declining population, we can't provide the police and fire protection we have in the past."

George Kugler of Gaffney Road railed: "How many jobs are being cut? Not one."

Jacob Kern Jr. of South Transit Street demanded that downtown merchants be charged extra for their daily garbage collections and snow removal from city-owned parking lots.

Phyllis J. Green, Republican candidate for 2nd Ward alderman, sought more spending on parks maintenance and condemned a proposed 6 percent pay raise for Sullivan's secretary and a $3,000 increase for Public Works Commissioner Gary M. Andes, who earns $70,000.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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