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Tucker to budget for curbside recycling Leaves decision to Common Council

Mayor Michael W. Tucker said Friday he will place $334,563 in the proposed 2010 city budget for a recycling program, and the Common Council will have to decide whether to approve it.

With the Council meeting for a budget work session at 3 p.m. Tuesday, the question of whether to go ahead with full curbside recycling in the city will be nearing a decision after months of study.

No tentative tax rate for the budget has been calculated yet, but a figure will have to be proposed before the public hearing on the spending plan, which is expected to be held Sept. 30. A vote on the budget will follow Oct. 7.

Alderman Joseph C. Kibler, R-at Large, said he doesn't expect to vote for recycling, which would be the largest new item in the budget.

"I don't think half the people in the City of Lockport will abide by it, after living here all my life," said Kibler, 75.

He noted that the budget also includes $200,000 to pay for the hiring of an appraisal firm to prepare a revaluation of all city properties. Also, the city's unions are nearing completion of contract talks, which will bring pay raises.

Adding recycling and appraisals to that is "going to be close to $1 million we'd be putting in the budget. I don't think the taxpayers will like it," Kibler said.

Alderman Patrick W. Schrader, D-4th Ward, said he thinks the city must create a garbage district so all property owners, including those normally exempt from property taxes, would have to pay a user fee for garbage and recycling.

Although he said he supports recycling, Schrader commented, "People are subsidizing the nonprofits and the businesses [that receive daily instead of weekly pickup]."

Tucker said the cost of recycling, which would be accomplished by signing a three-year contract with Modern Disposal to send its trucks to Lockport to collect recyclables, will be offset in two ways.

The city expects to continue selling recyclable cardboard and paper, and expects to earn about $18,000 doing so, Tucker said. Also, the city expects to be able to obtain a state grant to recover half of the $67,792 it plans to spend on recycling bins. The up-front cost of that will be borrowed through a bond issue, the mayor said.

Similarly, the cost of the appraisal firm will be partially offset by not hiring a full-time city assessor.

Part-timer Joseph Macaluso is expected to continue and would earn about $25,000 for a full year, less than half what a full-timer would cost. But by not working full-time, Macaluso is unable to complete a revaluation without someone being hired to check out all properties.

As for pay raises for the five unions, whose contracts expired at the end of 2007, Tucker said the city won't budget for retroactive raises for 2008.

The mayor said the amount to be placed in the budget for 2009 and 2010 raises hasn't been determined. But Schrader warned raise watchers to keep their eyes peeled for a misdirection play.

"Dickie's going to do something where you can't find them," Schrader said, referring to City Clerk and Budget Director Richard P. Mullaney.

Tucker said he thinks the city is close to a deal with all unions except the Lockport Professional Firefighters Association, which declared an impasse last month. But the city will try to avoid giving its bargaining position on wages away through the budget process.

Kibler said he'd like to avoid giving any raises.

"There's nobody down there who's not living comfortably, that another $400 a year is going to make a big difference," he said. "Look at the cars and boats and RVs in their driveways. And look at where they live. You don't see them buying houses in the North End or Spalding Street."

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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