Fulton’s City Budget Faces Tough Cuts

Fulton Mayor Ron Woodward offered a grim hint of the 2012 budget that he will unveil in a few days.  He said he’s already cut $600,000 from last year’s $15 million budget and has to find nearly $600,000 more to cut.

“If we’re gonna get through hard times, we’re gonna have to do hard things,” he said.

The city, which has the state’s highest combined tax rate per thousand, is being squeezed on at least three fronts:  Lost revenue from lower assessments on major properties, such as the new Cayuga Community College campus and the hydroelectric plants along the Oswego River; higher health insurance costs, and; increases in the city’s mandatory contribution to the state retirement fund for city retirees.

Woodward said each of the city’s budgets — the main budget for police, fire and other city services, along with its separate budgets for water, sewer and garbage services — will be lower in 2012 than in 2011 outside of the higher insurance and retirement costs.

Cutting the budget will mean eliminating jobs, he said.  “The money is in employees. It’s nowhere else.”

Woodward’s budgets have eliminated 17 positions in recent years, leaving a workforce of 115.  He did not say which positions may be set for elimination in 2012 except to note that three positions left open by retirements will not be filled.

He said the city has reached a tentative contract agreement with its fire department union, which he hopes to use as the foundation for talks with the police officers’ union.  He said the firefighters’ union has ratified the contract but would not divulge details because the Common Council has yet to ratify the agreement.  Woodward said the contract does not change the mandatory minimum staffing provision that city leaders have said adds so much cost to taxpayers.

The Common Council reviews the proposed budget at a workshop tentatively set for Saturday morning.