OSWEGO, NY – Following an executive session Monday night, the Common Council voted approve balancing the 2014 budget by means other than furloughs.
The vote was 3-3 (Councilor Mike Myers was excused) and Mayor Tom Gillen voted ‘yes’ to break the tie.
Voting ‘yes’ were councilors Fran Enwright, Eric VanBuren and Ron Kaplewicz. Councilors Mike Todd, Shawn Walker and Bill Barlow voted ‘no.’
The city’s 2014 operating budget was adopted last month and it includes personnel furloughs. During the budget process, suggestions of alternate budget line items in lieu of furloughs were made.
Time has been taken to research, review and calculate the suggested alternative options.
The council has authorized the city chamberlain to amend the operating and enterprise budgets to restore the personnel furlough and related benefits line items and complete budget amendments to offset (them).
The mayor and council will work to restructure the management and operations of services provided by the city, including reassignment of duties, responsibilities and personnel assigned to provide these services. This would include a reduction in personnel “as necessary” to provide for more efficient and effective delivery of services.
The city will work with the county and surrounding towns in an effort to consolidate any services where possible.
“In lieu of the two-week furlough and 4 percent loss of wages for everybody, from me on down, we have decided to seek out other alternatives,” the mayor said.
The furlough proposal ran into some problems with the unions, the mayor noted.
Their reaction was rather negative, he said, adding they weren’t in support of the idea and would rather layoff some people.
According to the mayor, some city workers have said they don’t want to lose 4 percent of their pay. They’d rather see some layoffs.
“So, we want to make an intelligent decision and not just have it, ‘last guy hired, first guy fired,” Gillen explained.
One option city officials are currently looking at is using some money from the Enterprise Fund.
“We have funded it pretty well and can draw some from it to run the city,” the mayor said.
“We were maybe a bit overly optimistic about the furlough plan,” the mayor said. “There are some people who would find it hard to make ends meet if that lost that 4 percent. We don’t want to punish anyone.”
They will now look at every department individually to see what they do for the city and exactly how they do.
During the budget process, it was noted that many departments are at “bare bones” right now.
“We’re trying to do the right thing. This isn’t political. You can’t just throw out a number and say that’s what it’s going to be. We’ve got to take the time to examine things, make the tough decisions, outside of the political arena and the right decision – what’s best for the entire city, so we don’t find ourselves in this same mess 10 or 15 years down the road,” the mayor said. “If it’s worth living in (Oswego), it’s worth investing in.”
“Change is good. We can’t just keep going like we were. If we did, we’d be in the same position. We need to change to improve,” he added. “It will be an educating process (for all of us). The last thing we want to do is make a bad decision.”
For more information, contact the Mayor’s Office at 342-8136.