By Thomas Prohaska
The Buffalo News
LOCKPORT, N.Y. — Seventeen employees, including nine firefighters and four police officers, would be laid off under the proposed 2014 city budget unveiled Wednesday — and even that isn't enough to avoid a tax increase.
John Schiavone of Lumsden & McCormick, the accounting firm hired to prepare the budget, said the Common Council would have to reduce spending by an additional $163,000 to meet its goal of not increasing the property tax levy.
Other planned layoffs include a building inspector, a Youth and Recreation Department assistant, a road crew laborer and a senior account clerk in the City Clerk's Office.
"It's important to understand, this is a document in flux," Mayor Michael W. Tucker said. "Before we adopt it on Nov. 20, it will change."
The city's tax cap for 2014 is a levy increase of 1.6 percent, Council President Anne E. McCaffrey said.
"We were really trying to avoid a tax increase, but with the cuts we've already made, I don't know that we can," she said.
The Council had been discussing budgetary matters behind closed doors for a couple of months, because the budget is closely entwined with union contract negotiations. All five city unions' contracts have expired, and new ones are being bargained.
One of the topics on the table is a city offer of early retirement incentives, Tucker said.
Alderman Joseph C. Kibler, R-at large, said he heard five police officers are considering early retirement.
McCaffrey said, "If there are retirements coming, that would remove the need for layoffs in that department."
Tucker said the reason there are fewer proposed police layoffs than fire layoffs is that the Police Department and union have been more forthcoming with savings ideas than their Fire Department counterparts.
"We have been working closely with the city to try to avoid layoffs," Police Chief Lawrence M. Eggert said. "We are looking at a restructuring of the department."
"The Police Department has come in with serious cuts. We haven't gotten that from the Fire Department," Tucker said.
The city currently has 49 uniformed personnel in police and 50 in fire, counting both chiefs.
It appeared the aldermen did not know the figures before Schiavone presented them during Wednesday's work session.
While McCaffrey called the layoff figures "terrible," Alderman John Lombardi, R-1st Ward, said they were better than he had anticipated. Lombardi said he had expected nine police officers to be laid off along with nine firefighters.
Despite the layoffs and other cuts, including the end of the city-subsidized Friday night summer concert series, spending in the budget currently is projected to be almost $1.2 million higher than this year's $22.5 million general fund budget.
The Council scheduled budget work sessions for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday and next Thursday. A public hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday.
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
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