OSWEGO, NY – The Port City’s 2013 spending plan was approved Monday night.
It is a fiscally responsible budget that keeps residents safe, according to the mayor and councilors.
During a public hearing prior to the meeting, several people told the council what they thought of the plan.
Mayor Tom Gillen applauded those who spoke at the budget public hearing.
“It shows the community cares,” he said.
His administration is committed to creating a budget that will ensure for the safety of the residents but is also fiscally responsible, he said.
Tough decisions had to be made by the budget committee, he said.
One thing that they all agreed on was that there would be no layoffs, he added.
“These are tough times but we made that commitment to the people of Oswego. We honor their services. We respect the safety that they provide,” he said. “We are a real family and we do take care of each other.”
Everyone needs to work together, he said, adding, “Now is the time for unity, not division.”
First Ward Councilor Fran Enwright thanked everyone who helped with the budget for all their hard work.
“We came up with something that is best for the city and for the most part safe,” he said.
Third Ward Councilor Mike Todd agreed calling the budget “very fiscally responsible.”
“We worked long and hard on this budget to make sure essential services would not be compromised,” Fifth Ward Councilor Dan Donovan said. “I’m proud of our mayor and I’m proud of this council; I support this budget.”
Council President Ron Kaplewicz (Seventh Ward) noted the council will begin looking at the 2014 budget plan in early January.
“I think it is important that we all do come together and work as a team,” he said.
Sixth Ward Councilor Eric VanBuren said this budget was “an eye opener” and agreed that keeping the budget committee active all year would be a good way work out future spending plans.
Fourth Ward Councilor said the budget process was about being fiscally responsible; it wasn’t personal.
If they didn’t make any cuts, the taxes would have gone way up, he added.
Something had to give, agreed Second Ward Councilor Mike Myers.
“We have to be much more leaner, you guys can do it, I know it,” he said. “I want to say a good job to all the councilors and the mayor. But I also want to thank the fire department for sitting down and talking with us.”
“Going into this, we understood the financial confines that the city was in. After spending some time looking at last year’s budget and spending some time looking at the proposed budget, we looked for ways to work together. We’re hopeful that we can keep services intact, keep the west side station open and keep 12 firefighters on duty,” said John Geraci, president of the firefighters’ association.
The association has always been a proponent of trying to find ways to run the department as efficiently as possible, he added.
“We want to work with the city to find ways to keep our services intact,” he said. “I am hopeful that even in the confines of this budget, though the fire department will suffer losses, we’ll be able to keep our services intact and the west side fire station open. We will strive to protect the citizens of the city of Oswego the way they should be.”
The union head added that he is confident they will find a way to keep the west side station open and 12 firefighters on duty.
“There’s no reason to close the west side fire station, unless the budget is not being held accountable; if they can stay within the budget. We’re simply asking the firefighters in particular to do a better job managing their overtime hours. That’s basically the gist of it,” Mayor Gillen said. “We think it is a fair and equitable budget for them. Actually, it’s more than was adopted last year, but it’s less than they requested.”
“We’re asking our friends in the fire department to work a little harder and maybe a little smarter and help us get through this tough year,” the mayor continued. “The last thing we want to do is create any sense of insecurity over safety issues for the people of Oswego.”
The administration will be very proactive in working on a new budget throughout the year, he said, adding, “We’re not going to wait until November of next year, sit down and say, ‘oops, this is what we should have done.’ We’re going to look at this on a very realistic scale and we’re going to make adjustments and tweaks as we go along.”
They aren’t going to get rid of any services that provide safety for the citizens, he vowed.
“It’s simply just a matter of managing the budget. That’s all it is,” Gillen said. “It’s negotiable, how many people makes a city safe? What is a fair price to pay for safety? These are some points that we tend to dramatize. The fundamental fact remains to provide a safe city, to keep people safe and to keep our firefighters the best in class, which they are. We’re going to work through this together. We are going to be better.”