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October 28, 2009

 

DPW won’t fill jobs to cut spending

Superintendent proposes cutting 3 jobs in 2010, reducing department’s staff to 19

By HOLDEN B. SLATTERY
Staff Reporter
hslattery@cortlandstandard.net

The Department Public Works superintendent outlined a 12 percent cut in DPW spending for 2010 at a city budget workshop Tuesday night.
Aldermen welcomed the spending reduction, saying they plan to look for cuts in other departments before asking for any more DPW cuts.
The Common Council also discussed smaller proposed cuts in the Water Department and the Law Department.
The Common Council is trying to close a $1.1 million budget gap in Mayor Tom Gallagher’s 2010 budget proposal. The council asked each department head to trim 10 percent from their department’s portion of the budget.
“Now it’s here and we’re saying come to us with those numbers,” said Bryan Gazda, city director of administration and finance.
The budget proposal calls for $1.7 million in spending in the DPW, a 12 percent decrease from $1.9 million in DPW spending in the 2009 budget. The savings amounts to $229,475.
DPW Superintendent Chris Bistocchi said he offered to cut spending in the DPW by 12 percent by reducing his staff by 3 employees, from 22 to 19. Seven workers retired this year, and Bistocchi hired five new workers. The net loss of the two salaries will save $135,000, which is already figured into Gallagher’s proposal.
Bistocchi said another employee has said he plans to retire in January and that he can leave the position unfilled, too, which would provide an additional $45,000 in savings.
“I think we can get the job done with 19, Bistocchi said after the meeting. “The winter will be a good test for us.”
The budget proposal includes equal spending to 2009 in the Water Department. Tuesday night the Common Council came up with about $25,000 in savings in the Water Department. Bistocchi and Gazda agreed to reduce spending on electric power from $135,000 to $115,000 and to reduce spending on natural gas from $20,000 to $15,000, based on projections of how much the utilities will cost.
Bistocchi said that if he were asked to cut costs by 10 percent in the Water Department, he would have to cut at least two positions. He said after the meeting that he thinks the proposed water rate increase, which would generate revenue used to help fund the salaries of the Common Council, Gallagher and administrative staff, should count toward the 10 percent.
The budget proposes to raise city water rates by 7.2 percent. A portion of the revenue from the water department goes into the general fund to pay salaries and other costs.
“I understand it’s a revenue generating department, but we still need to look at it because it’s still a form of tax to the residents,” Gazda said.
City officials said they appreciate the cuts Bisctocchi has offered to make.
“I think you’ve already taken steps, and I think we’ve got to look at other departments, Gazda said to Bistocchi.
“I think we need to go look at all the other departments and then come back to these two,” Susan Feiszli (D-6th Ward) agreed after the meeting.
Alderman Chuck Hamilton (D-7th Ward) asked Bistocchi whether he thinks the DPW could consolidate with the Public Safety Department to save money, but Bistocchi declined to comment on it in the public forum.
“If steps were taken I’d be more than happy to talk to you about that,” Bistocchi said.
Total spending in the Law Department has been reduced from $100,142 in 2009 to $99,922 in Gallagher’s proposal. City Attorney Larry Knickerbocker is paid approximately $40,000.
Under the mayor’s budget proposal, city taxpayers would face a 16.4 percent increase in their property tax rate in 2010. If adopted as is, the proposal would boost city spending to $18.3 million, a 6.5 percent hike.
The city’s tax rate would be $16.36 per $1,000 of assessed property value, and Cortland’s tax levy would rise 15.9 percent to just under $1.2 million. The Common Council has scheduled further budget workshops with city department heads on Thursday and Nov. 5. The council set a special meeting to vote on the mayor’s tentative budget for 7 p.m. on Nov. 12.
The Common Council must adopt a tentative budget by Nov. 15, and then a public hearing must be held on the budget by Dec. 15. The council may alter the budget up until Dec. 31, the final deadline for adoption.

 

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