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Council rejects more budget proposals

The deadline passed Sunday without adoption of a city budget.

At a special meeting Sunday, the Common Council heard comments from some of the 60 or so city employees and residents in the audience, then quickly rejected the two most recent of 14 budget proposals that Mayor David Carucci has placed on the table since February.

Carucci then asked the aldermen to suggest further cuts, warning them that, unless the budget is adopted by Friday, property tax bills will not go out on time. That could leave the city facing a cash flow crisis before badly needed revenues arrive.

The City Charter, which sets the April 15 deadline, prescribes no consequences for a late budget, and city officials have been told that their state aid will not be affected.

The Council then met privately with the mayor and city auditor, stating the discussion would focus on personnel and contracts. When the meeting broke up about two hours later, Carucci announced that the aldermen had asked to look at two more amended proposals today and would vote on them during the Tuesday night committee session.

No specifics were provided, but City Auditor Janet Jones said the new proposals will not differ markedly from versions already rejected by the Council and would carry projected tax increases of 18 percent to 20 percent.

She and the mayor explained that they also will contain several job cuts affecting the Civilian Police Dispatch and Fire departments, along with the Parks Department, under different spending possibilities.

"This will be number 15 and 16, and it's been very difficult. We can't get a consensus," Carucci said about his discussions with the aldermen.

"I'm usually optimistic about things, but I am not optimistic about Tuesday," he added.

In the first proposal rejected Sunday, spending would have totaled $13,93 million and taxes would have risen 18.872 percent to an estimated tax rate of $146.35 per $1,000. In the second, spending would have exceeded $14 million, with a tax increase of 20.487 percent and a tax rate at $148.34 per $1,000. Although the tax rate sounds excessive, homes in the city are assessed at about 8 percent of current market value. The last revaluation was completed around 1964.

After the two proposals were defeated Sunday, Ward 1 Alderman Robert LaForge, who voted to eliminate the Parks Department, said aldermen are beginning to disagree on what items should be eliminated.

"There are more people on the streets now. We need blacktop, not more workers to fix the streets," he said.

Only Ward 6 Alderman Rick Smith and Ward 2 Alderman Michael Kayes voted to retain the Parks Department.

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