December 9, 2009


Aldermen finalize city budget proposal

Council approves increase in amount department heads contribute to health insurance

Staff Reporter

The city Common Council voted 6-1 Tuesday night to raise the percentage department heads pay for their health insurance from 9 percent to 16 percent, during a budget workshop meeting.
The council members decided to cancel a budget workshop scheduled for Thursday. The council is finished making changes to their proposed 2010 budget and plans to vote on the budget Dec. 15.
The insurance contribution change will save $14,549 in the 2010 city budget.
Alderman Chuck Hamilton (D-7th Ward) cast the only vote against the proposal, saying he thinks department heads should pay the same amount for health insurance as the union employees in their departments.
The unions’ percentages range from 13 to 19 percent.
Alderman Clay Benedict (D-2nd Ward) was not at the meeting.
The changes to the tax rate and tax levy after the changes made for department heads’ insurance payments were not available this morning.
Prior to the meeting, the tax rate for the proposed budget stood at $15.28 per $1,000 of assessed property value, compared to $14.05 per $1,000 of assessed property value in 2009.
The crossing guards were reinstated into the budget during a budget workshop meeting Dec. 2.
Early next year the council plans to raise the percentages of health insurance costs department heads pay after they retire.
The change can be made after the council develops a management compensation plan, which will be completed between February and April, said city Director of Finance and Administration Bryan Gazda.
The council is looking at Cortland County’s management compensation plan as a model, Gazda said.
Alderman Thomas Michales (R-8th Ward) said the council is looking to change the percentage department heads pay after retiring from 9 percent to 12 percent.
The council also decided to leave health insurance benefits out of the budget for council members and the mayor. Mayor Tom Gallagher eliminated the benefits in the tentative budget he created.
Hamilton made a motion to put health insurance back into the budget for the mayor, but mayor-elect Alderman Susan Feiszli (D-6th Ward) waved off the motion.
“I believe I can find a cheaper policy for my family,” Feiszli said.
“I think we could have cut more, but I think we made a lot of progress,” Hamilton said after the meeting.
Hamilton said next year the council will look to eliminate more positions, but council members need more information to find out which positions can be cut.
“It’s hard to tell what a person’s doing in that department,” he said. “Some of the jobs, I think, are more than well covered.”
Feiszli said the council will look to make more cuts and raise rates for services to bring in additional revenue next year, but there does not appear to be a consensus on cuts to make for 2010.
“I think it would be pointless to have another meeting because the council cannot agree as a majority on specific cuts,” said Feiszli.
Alderman Dan Quail (R-5th Ward) said changing the city’s health insurance package next year could save the city $500,000 to $700,000 in 2011.


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