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11th-hour accord reached on budget

The Olean Common Council voted, 4-3, on a tentative agreement on a 2007-08 budget early Wednesday -- all but ensuring a steady revenue stream by providing the necessary data needed by the city clerk to send out tax bills next week.

The aldermen made plans to return to City Hall at 12:05 a.m. today to vote on a formal resolution to adopt the $13.9 million proposal, in compliance with a 24-hour public notice requirement for public meetings.

If adopted, the budget will eliminate six full-time workers and seven part-timers, while increasing taxes by about 18.8 percent. If the tentative agreement holds, the vote will end weeks of haggling over minuscule adjustments in Mayor David J. Carucci's original $14.7 million proposal.

It should also end the call for a control board, heard repeatedly from many residents who were allowed to express their opinions during budget discussions on the city's financial plight and nearly $5 million deficit.

Regardless of the outcome, the city is moving forward with its first property revaluation in almost 45 years, and negotiations are under way for a new firefighters contract that could not substantially change because of the timing of ongoing negotiations.

The Fire Department budget, approaching $2.6 million, with its 41 employees, has the largest appropriations of all departments and was the most hotly debated topic, with some residents calling for replacement of professionals by volunteers.

Common Council President Ray Wangelin of Ward 3 said Linda Edstrom of Ward 4 finally changed her vote to "yes" in a series of straw polls held on a list of compromises and budget changes during Tuesday night's marathon session. She joined Robert LaForge of Ward 1, Michael Kayes of Ward 2 and Jefrey Steiner of Ward 5.

Wangelin, who along with Aldermen Rick Smith of Ward 6 and John Padlo of Ward 7, voted "no," said he did not think aldermen would ever reach an agreement.

"[Smith] wanted all the jobs put back and no layoffs. There was no dealing with him at all," Wangelin said.

"[Padlo] and I wanted some deeper cuts and some reorganization," he said, adding the two also agreed the tax rate is too high and the compromise still doesn't address the need of reducing costs.

Ward 5 Alderman Jefrey Steiner finally compromised, dropping his effort to reduce a $300,000 contingency fund and making it known that he does not intend to go through with an announcement last week that he would resign in frustration.
The proposal to be voted on would eliminate one full-time firefighter, one full-time emergency dispatcher, two parks maintenance workers, a mechanic, the Parks and Recreation Department office manager, a part-time Fire Department clerk and six part-time dispatchers.

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