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Council still has issues with budget plan

The Olean Common Council received the latest in a series of 2007-08 budget drafts Tuesday, but aldermen say they will ask for further cuts in the document, which calls for tax increase of almost 27 percent to support a general fund totaling $14.1 million.

The Council rejected a $14.7 million budget and a 31 percent tax hike several weeks ago. Mayor David Carucci drew fire from the Council again by slicing city parks, recreational facilities, youth and senior programs from the proposal for a total budget of $13.3 million supported by a 15 percent hike in taxes.

Several days later, Carucci came forward with $672,074 in adjustments that resulted in a $14 million plan and a 25 percent tax hike.

In it, he offered to remove several jobs, including one dispatcher, an administrative assistant who works for both the Council and the code enforcement office, two firefighters, a portion of the tree program.

That plan was aired in a Saturday night meeting attended by a large crowd that was given the chance to add its input to the budget uproar.

Sunday -- the first day of Carucci's weeklong vacation out of state -- saw more changes, as the mayor phoned a reporter to announce his intention to put some recreational items back in the budget, including four crossing guards and Historical Society funds.

Money to pay for those items was to be taken from adjustments drafted by Public Works Director Tom Windus, who reviewed them during a special Council work session Tuesday.

Windus presented a plan to save $77,372 that will restore some programs, mostly through recreation fee increases, the removal of eight part-time summer workers and splitting the services of a water meter reader who would be assigned to a part-time slot as a Recreation Center maintenance hand.

The plan was described as "creative" by Council President Ray Wangelin, Ward 3, and Finance Committee Chairman Linda Edstrom, Ward 4, but aldermen indicated the proposal still needs work.

After the work session, City Auditor Janet R. Jones said the officials have asked that the next draft carry a maximum tax hike of 15 to 18 percent.

When asked if he believes the Council will have a final budget in hand by the deadline of April 15, Wangelin said, "I don't personally think it's going to happen on time, but we've made some progress."

In a Public Safety Committee meeting that followed the session, aldermen gave tentative approval to a timber permit application by Giardini Brothers Inc. The firm intends to harvest about 100 trees of a stand of 2,000 trees inside the city limits near the Allegheny River Recreational Trail near Gargoyle Park.

Logging will also occur nearby in a separate Giardini-owned forest inside the Town of Allegany.

The issue will be presented to the Committee of the Whole on Tuesday in the form of a resolution.

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