At a special session Friday evening, the Olean Common Council rejected three new spending proposals and planned to reconvene at 9 a.m. today to try to hammer out a budget for the coming fiscal year before Sunday's deadline.
Worried by a $5 million deficit that threatens to increase next year, the Council already voted down the $14.7 million plan containing a 39 percent tax increase that Mayor David J. Carucci proposed in February. Thursday, members voted down a revised $13.9 million plan calling for a 19.8 percent tax increase, the lowest of three proposals under consideration, and called for more drastic cuts.
In Friday night's showdown, several aldermen called for a control board, one announced his intention to resign, and another called on city employees to volunteer for pay cuts. Several insisted the new budget should include funds to retain youth and senior citizen programs, and criticized the mayor's repeated proposals showing savings from job cuts canceled out by higher unemployment and overtime costs.
"We asked for cuts that are going to help cut the budget and not increase it. . . . My 13-year-old would know you wouldn't do it that way," Common Council President Ray Wangelin said, expressing frustration that the budget work must continue even though negotiations with the firefighters union have not been concluded.
In addition to returning Friday with the rejected $13.9 million plan, Carucci presented two new revisions that call for eliminating Parks Department personnel, all but one police dispatcher, a secretary, a garage mechanic, the Youth Services office manager, and some youth and senior citizen programs. Both plans show an increase of almost $184,000 in the Streets Department.
He reviewed a list of cuts and changes, then said, "I don't recommend this budget." In line with the recommendations of a state comptroller's report, he has pressed for a larger spending plan and a higher tax rate.
One of his new proposals rejected Friday reflected a net budget savings of $906,000, total spending of $14 million and a tax increase of 20.28 percent.
That plan would have eliminated 10 full-time positions and a part-time job in the Fire Department, but the $762,920 in cuts would have resulted in an increase of $905,000 in unemployment and overtime costs. The department currently needs about $2.4 million for salaries out of a total budget approaching $2.6 million.
The firefighters union contract, due to expire next month, requires three eight-man shifts and calls for three positions in the Code Enforcement Office. If one man is unavailable for work, the union can call in a firefighter at the overtime rate. The department employs 41 people, including the chief.
The other new budget option totaled $13.7 million with a tax increase of 15.37 percent. It would have eliminated 1.5 firefighting jobs but save $1.14 million overall because it would not incur as much overtime and unemployment costs.
After the Council killed the three plans, a motion was made to restore summer youth and senior citizen programs to the $13.9 million proposal, but it failed because of the lack of a second.