Councilors Wrestle With Budget Proposal

OSWEGO, NY – The Common Council held the first of two scheduled budget workshops Wednesday night in an effort to find savings to stave off a hefty sewer fee hike in 2010.

The councilors gathered for more than five and a half hours, meeting with the city’s department heads.

The council cut Harborfest overtime from the DPW ($20,000), Police ($30,000), Traffic ($15,000) and Fire Department ($15,000).

Another $5,000 (in overtime) was also snipped from the Police Department.

During preparation of the Oswego’s proposed 2010 operating budget, the city faced a shortfall of $5,070,041 between department requests and projected revenues, according to Mayor Randy Bateman.

After department revisions, the Budget Commission going through the budget line by line, cutting everything to a minimum and realistically adjusting a few revenue lines – the Port City still faced a shortfall of $2,070,901 to maintain the current tax rate of $8.98 per thousand, he said.

Instead of increasing taxes, he opted tripling the sewer fee.

That would result in an estimated additional $1,208,880, which would be paid by everyone, not just property tax payers, the mayor explained.

The remainder of the shortfall would be made up from a transfer from the sewer and general funds.

However, at Monday night’s council meeting, aldermen voted unanimously to table the proposed rate hike until they had a chance to go over the tentative budget with a fine-tooth comb.

After Wednesday’s workshop, discussion to deal with the method of making up the difference in the $2+ million was up in the air.

Some councilors aren’t supporting a sewer increase, one believes that the DEC cannot mandate, and some still believe that the budget can be balanced by still cutting more than a million dollars.

A public hearing on the budget proposal is tentatively scheduled for Aug. 24 in the Council Chambers.