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Council is facing deadline on budget

Budget talks were suspended after a six-hour meeting Saturday produced no agreements between the Olean Common Council and the administration on how to approach the 2007-08 fiscal year.

Talks will resume at 3 p.m. today, the final day granted to the Common Council for timely acceptance of a spending plan. City officials are uncertain what will happen if a budget isn't in place.

Council members received the latest in a long list of revised budget proposals Saturday from Mayor David J. Carucci and are expected to adopt the $13.9 million plan and its 19.2 percent tax increase, or propose alternatives.

"They have not shot this budget out of the water yet," said Carucci after the Council ended a two-hour, closed-door afternoon meeting with the mayor on issues including personnel and contracts.

The new plan includes token cuts in the mayor's telephone, travel and training budgets and celebrations funds, and halves the $10,000 amount requested by the city attorney for a legal secretary.

It also removes $100,165 from the Parks Department and $24,000 in a Public Works Department reorganization. But it spares firefighter layoffs of all but one full-timer and one part-timer, proposed earlier, and keeps youth and senior programs in place.

The city's budget planning for the coming fiscal year has been complicated by an estimated $5 million deficit and a lack of funds for payroll -- factors that prompted a deficit bonding resolution.

However, other financial uncertainties loom because of the expiration of the contract for firefighters in six weeks. Negotiations have barely begun.

The union representing police agreed to defer raises for two years and will operate with about $2.1 million in funding, a reduction of about $247,245, and the possible elimination of some civilian police dispatchers.

If the mayor's latest budget placed on the table Saturday is passed, the Fire Department's budget will increase slightly, to more than $2.5 million from $2,475,367.

During a public comment session of more than an hour, Alderman John Padlo of Ward 7 pointed out that the Fire Department claims 18.5 percent of the budget and is supported by about $125 in taxes from the average household.

Saturday morning, the Council refused to consider a $14 million plan that would lay off nine full-time workers and two part-time workers, and reduce parks maintenance along with youth and senior programs, for a tax increase of almost 20.5 percent.

Also rejected Saturday was a $14 million plan and an associated 21 percent tax hike put forward by Ward 2 Alderman Mike Kayes.

That budget would have spared four firefighter jobs as well as programming for summer youth and seniors activities.

Kayes said he had obtained pledges from all the aldermen for donations of 10 percent of the their salaries to help the city begin setting aside a surplus account.

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