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Budget cuts put tax hike at 9.12%

Scrapping most of a planned reorganization of public works departments as unaffordable, the Common Council dropped six new jobs Tuesday from next year's budget.

But going into a public hearing set for 6 p.m. today in City Hall, the spending plan still carries a 9.12 percent property tax increase.

Members of the Council agreed that's unacceptable. "If we don't get this below 5 percent, I'm not voting for anything," said Council President John Lombardi III, R-5th Ward, who is running for re-election.

"I'm all right with a couple of (new police) officers and a guy to maintain Main Street, but we're hiring too many people," said Alderman Scott A. Cercone, R-3rd Ward, who is running for 15th District county legislator.

Besides the hirings Cercone endorsed, the budget had called for adding a streets superintendent, four workers for the Highways and Parks Department, a building inspector trainee, a part-time building inspection clerk and a full-time employee to maintain the City Hall ventilation and telephone systems.

But the Council cut the four highway workers and the two building inspection jobs, while eliminating the $18,926 Outwater Park swimming pool for the third consecutive year and dropping $2,500 for the moribund Human Relations Commission.

Tuesday's cuts totaled $155,000 and left the spending total at $20.6 million, which would be a $900,000 increase from this year. The Council plans to adopt the budget next Wednesday.

Cercone wanted to eliminate the $57,500 streets superintendent as well. "We've gotten by without it for five years," he said.

Public Works Administrator Gary M. Andes had proposed a makeover of his department by transferring four workers at the streets garage to the wastewater treatment plant, since they do a lot of sewer-related work anyway, and hiring four employees to replace them.

"We can't afford it this year," Lombardi said.

Sewer operations are paid for by a separate fund financed by sewer bills.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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