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Mayor refuses to impose freeze on city spending

Mayor David Carucci refused to impose a spending freeze in answer to the city's financial loss after six of the seven aldermen voted to support a bill asking him to do so.

Common Council President Ray Wangelin said prior to his committee's vote on the bill that the administration is not trying to solve the problem that led to unauthorized spending of a $1 million sewer repair bond and a $3.4 million deficit.

"This is what we all want. We need to cut back on anything that is non-essential and start trying to solve it and not simply add it to next year's tax bill," said Wangelin, referring to the Mayor's request to cover the $3.4 million deficit.

Aldermen told Carucci they don't want to freeze safety-related items or costs covered by union contracts, but Carucci answered that the city insurance company is concerned with limiting some services.

"I am not putting a full freeze on the city," Carucci said. He said he already has ordered spending curbs in the Public Works Department and hopes costs can be cut during contract negotiations with the union.

A Council session followed the committee vote, but the legislation was not considered during that time, and aldermen commented that the decision is the mayor's.

Carucci said later that he received independent audit reports detailing city finances dating back to 2003 that will provide information that had not been available because some required audits have never been filed by the city auditor.

Carucci said he will use those reports and department head projections in his work that has already begun on the 2007-2008 budget.

He said that plan should be vastly different than the current budget if he wins union concessions.

"Everything is on the table," he said, but refused to comment when questioned if layoffs or job cuts are on the horizon.

He said when first taking office last January he prepared the 2006-2007 budget without audited expense and revenue figures.

"We had no clue, and we used the numbers provided by [auditor] Steve Pachla," Carucci said.

He received some advice during the public comment period from resident Jim Brady, a former auditor for the U.S. inspector general.

Brady said he has counted an $8 million deficit for the past five years that will grow to $10 million by the end of the fiscal year.

He asked what residents should do to take action against those responsible for the deficit and suggested contacting a federal bankruptcy judge to inquire about filing a Chapter 9 bankruptcy.

He said he predicts the state comptroller would recommend that the State Legislature be authorized to borrow money to pay its operating expenses, but he charged that the legislature has a conflict of interest as it manages the state pension fund and did not step in when the city began having trouble.

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