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Brown seeks approval of budget amendments to pave way for restructuring

Mayor-elect Byron W. Brown wants the Common Council to approve budget amendments that would lay the foundation for some departmental restructurings.

The revisions would fill 13 new or vacant positions, eliminate 16 others and provide higher salaries for a few yet-to-be-named officials.

The changes would trim spending slightly, saving about $10,000 a year.

Outgoing Mayor Anthony M. Masiello sent the plan to the Council on Brown's behalf. Masiello, who met with Brown on Thursday, said some of the moves indicate that the incoming mayor plans to delegate some tasks.

For example, Brown is following through with a plan to appoint two deputy mayors, each at a salary of $85,000. Brown spokesman Steven M. Casey said each deputy will be responsible for dealing with specific department heads.

To help pay for the new positions, Brown proposes to eliminate a chief of staff and an executive staff manager. He plans to create two additional assistants at lower salaries than what the current managers make.

The salaries of some existing jobs would be increased. The inspections commissioner would receive $81,484, an increase of more than $8,100. The finance commissioner would make $83,000, up nearly $3,800. The director of intergovernmental relations, a position that is currently vacant, would pay $79,243, an increase of more than $12,000.

Casey said the transition team reviewed national data and concluded that some salaries are not competitive.

The Council is expected to consider the plan Tuesday. Majority Leader Mark A. Coppola said he wants to scrutinize every change, including the salary upgrades. He noted they would come at a time when city employees have had their wages frozen by a control board.

"I think the raises might upset a lot of people," said Coppola. "The city work force hasn't seen raises in a while."

But Casey defended the higher salaries.

"We believe in paying people a fair buck if they work hard -- and they will," Casey said Friday.

The new administration also wants to hire a second marketing manager in the Real Estate Division.

"There's a lot of vacant land out there, and we think this could be one way to create new revenue," said Casey.

Brown also wants to create a new program director in the Youth Services Division, and a director of urban affairs.

To pay for the enhancements, Brown would cut 16 jobs, most of them vacant, in several departments.

Brown has yet to make any appointments, but the head of his transition team said Thursday some announcements are imminent.

"We're close. We're very close," said Arnold B. Gardner.

Transition officials met Thursday with David P. Comerford, a former city public works commissioner and general manager of the Buffalo Sewer Authority. His name has repeatedly surfaced as a prospective candidate for a cabinet post. But Comerford wouldn't discuss his future, and transition officials said it is too early to say whether he will join the administration.

Meanwhile, Buffalo's chief labor negotiator will leave City Hall Jan. 3 to play a similar role at the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority. Louis R. Giardina has been the city's director of employee relations since 1998. He opted not to reapply.

"I wanted to pursue new challenges, and I also think the new mayor should appoint his own labor relations director," he said.

Giardina, a former Erie County sheriff's deputy, served as chief of internal affairs under Sheriff Thomas F. Higgins prior to being hired by the city. He will make $70,000 as the NFTA's manager of labor relations, versus his current salary of $56,359. He replaces Brent Herman, who left the NFTA earlier this year.

NFTA spokesman C. Douglas Hartmayer thinks Giardina will be an asset to an authority with a payroll of 1,543, including 1,403 unionized workers. He will be responsible for all labor relations tasks, including contract talks and handling grievances. The NFTA's contract with the union that represents Metro drivers expires at the end of July.

e-mail: bmeyer@buffnews.com

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