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Sewer rate increase approved by Council

The Olean Common Council approved a sewer rate hike in a 4-3 vote Tuesday night.

The new rates are an 11 percent increase from the rate of $26.27 per 1,000 cubic feet, as estimated by Alderman Rick Smith. The hike becomes effective in the next quarterly billing cycle.

Most customers will pay $2.93 per 100 cubic feet more based on metered water use. One group of customers will see a hike of $1.85 per 100 cubic feet. The midyear increase is designed to make up a revenue shortfall that resulted from the Council's refusal last year to come up with a budgeted rate hike.

Mayor David Carucci plans to increase the sewer rate again in the fall as part of his $14.5 million budget draft.

The proposal contains a 37.8 percent tax rate hike and will add $10 to the water and sewer rates to balance those independent accounts.

Carucci has negotiated a wage freeze with three city unions and will likely announce a retirement buyout package later this week that will help trim about $1.2 million from the plan.

During the public comment portion of a committee meeting Tuesday, Carucci said next year's sewer and water rate hikes may be lower than $10, depending on how many union workers will accept the buyout.

Aldermen, who said they are opposed to steep tax hikes, drew fire over the projected budget spending levels during the meeting in City Hall. A new budget draft will have to be introduced in the next week to meet April 15's deadline for passage.

In other matters, Sgt. Terry Schnell has been designated as the new police chief.

His appointment was announced after the mayor and Common Council met behind closed doors to discuss personnel issues, including the retirement buyout offer.

Before the door closed, Carucci was asked to verify reports that employees were offered wage concessions, trading their 3.5 percent contracted increase for 2006 for a 7 percent increase in 2007, but he declined to comment.

He added that he will meet with unions at 1 p.m. today to discuss terms of the retirement package and to obtain agreement on a memorandum of understanding necessary to move forward with a new budget draft.

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