Oswego Council OKs 2014 Budget Plan

OSWEGO, NY – The nearly 200 Port City residents and employees packed the Oswego Council Chamber and spilling into the hallways had something to cheer about Monday night.

The Common Council approved the 2014 budget – and the 15 DPW positions that were slated for elimination were saved.

The large crowd, many of which were city DPW workers, got some good news Monday night regarding the 2014 budget.
The large crowd, many of which were city DPW workers, got some good news Monday night regarding the 2014 budget.

The council did some creative rearranging of budgetary items between last Thursday’s public meeting on the budget plan and Monday night, according to Council President Ron Kaplewicz.

The tax levy (per $1,000 assessed) now stands at $14.488.

The budget still contains the loss of several positions. Among them are:

  • three positions from the Code Enforcement Office and transfer one part-time position to a different department.
  • one secretary council position in the Engineering and Zoning Office.
  • the part-time tourism director position.
  • police – three full-time and three part-time public safety clerks
  • a position in Traffic Department
  • a position in Animal Control
  •  $74,000 in seasonal street maintenance (summer youth helpers)
  • a new position in Parks
  • the seasonal supervisor position at the marina

“We rearranged a whole bunch of different things. There were several positions (the DPW commissioner) had vacant that he’s not going to refill. We looked at the vacancies that were currently unstaffed, where we were with potential retirements, also looked at every freaking dollar that we’re spending whether it was in snow removal or equipment or whatever,” Kaplewicz said following the meeting. “In the end, we got creative. One (DPW worker) went over to the water department, one went over to the sewer department. It’s where we can use the help and also there is an opportunity to share some resources between those departments. We’re literally going to restructure and redesign our DPW and the way we operate as a unit.”

It has to be negotiated with the unions, but the budget contains a 4 percent apportioned cut to every department in every department in the city.

“You either agree to take the (10-day) furlough, or we will have layoffs,” Kaplewicz said. “We have to make our budget. That’s what it comes down to. We’ll figure out how to do it for the mayor and council, because we’ll feel the pain, too.”

The Codes Department was “an unfortunate consequence” of the budget process, he added.

“All of the unions have settled contracts through 2016. There were no retro raises, and most of them were zero with small increases at the end,” he said. “The police contract was negotiated back in the spring. We looked seriously at what we were paying our officers compared to what other communities were paying theirs. We were losing good trained officers to other well-paying communities. We have to retain the best and the brightest. They bumped up the base salary. However, they gave up a whole bunch of stuff that affects us immediately and long-term.”

For example, the police gave up their $800 uniform allowance forever. That’s $40,000 to $50,000 a year, Kaplewicz noted.

Random drug testing is now in place in the police department, he added.

“We changed the health care for retirees, we changed the health contributions for new hires, we changed a whole host of things,” he said. “There are a lot of good short-term and long-term savings for the city.”

“In essence, where we were with the cuts, $14.32 – we we able to put all those positions back in at about 15 cents, 16 cents more per thousand. On a $70,000 home it’s still going to cost you an extra $20-some a month. Some of the unions may decide to take a reduction in force (instead of the furlough),” the council president continued. “If they do, that’s fine. If we can get leaner and meaner that’s fine. This is all about looking at how we operate as a city government, restructuring if we need to and making changes; we need to look forward to 2015.”

“It’s one piece of the battle,” Jody Delbrocco, the business agent for the SEIU-Local 200 union, said of the decision on the 2014 budget. “We made it through today. Tomorrow’s another day. We’ve still got work to do.”

The people he represents haven’t had a raise in five years, he pointed out, adding that the union has been working with Mayor Tom Gillen and previous administrations to make it through thses tough times.

“I don’t envy any of these folks. They have to make tough decisions, it’s almost an insurmountable task,” he said. “What they did tonight … reinstate those positions … it’s just smart business. I give this council credit, they saw it through, made a tough decision but I think the right one. Tomorrow’s another day, we still got work to do.”

As far as the furloughs, Delbrocco said, “There’s more than one way to get to where we need to go. It’s not the first time we started out with ‘A’ and ended up with ‘B.’ These are good people, honest people doing a tough job. We’ll work with them, we’ll get there.”