Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

December 18, 2013

Proposal on table to bring back two city jobs

BY JOE OLENICK joe.olenick@lockportjournal.com
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Two city positions would be restored in Lockport’s 2014 budget according to a resolution Common Council members will discuss tonight.

An employee in the City Clerk’s Office and one in the Highways Department would get their jobs back, under the measure which is sponsored by Alderman Patrick W. Schrader, D-4th Ward.

The Common Council will meet at 6 p.m. in council chambers.

Schrader said money was found in the 2014 budget that would cover the cost of adding back both positions.

“The mayor and I feel we have enough money, from a number of different lines,” Schrader said.

Council President Anne McCaffrey, R-2nd Ward, is encouraging her colleagues to oppose the resolution. Nothing has changed since the budget vote last month, McCaffrey said. 

“There are no new retirements, no new concessions and no new revenue sources. The budget that we passed is one of the tightest budgets in recent history and there is no room for error,” McCaffrey said.

The highway worker, a member of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union, was needed for sewer and water maintenance, Schrader said. Schrader chairs the Council’s water and sewer committee.

And now is the time of year when sewer and water lines need attention, Schrader said.

“I hate to lose that body,” he said.

Another reason McCaffrey said she disagreed with the resolution, was that city officials just submitted a response to the New York State Comptroller’s Office with plans to decrease the city’s fiscal stress. Auditors from the Comptroller’s Office reviewed the city’s finances after Lockport was declared to be in fiscal stress by the comptroller.

“Reinstating positions that were removed from the budget with no offsetting revenue source contradicts our response to the Comptroller,” McCaffrey said. “We submitted detailed plans and measures to ensure a structurally balance budget and heightened monitoring to ensure fiscal stability and we need to follow through with these plans.”

The city may encounter some unexpected expenses in 2014 – such as a harsh winter or some kind of problem like a sinkhole – so McCaffrey said officials would monitor the budget throughout 2014.

And in the event certain expenses come in under budget, the Council will revisit bringing laid off staff back, McCaffrey said.

“Right now, it is simply premature to bring staff back without knowing if our budget can handle it,” McCaffrey said.

Last month, the Common Council adopted a $23.7 million general fund budget, balanced with a 34-cent or 2.3 percent increase in the city tax rate, to $15.07 per $1,000 of assessed property value.

The tax levy, $10.6 million, is 1.7 percent higher than the 2013 levy.

A total of 16 layoffs was originally planned, until a recently announced firefighter retirement cut the number of layoffs down by one. Seven city firefighters, four police officers, a building inspector and a youth department position were the other layoffs.

But, city officials have expressed confidence that due to talks with city police, all four officers could be saved.

Contact reporter Joe Olenick at 439-9222, ext. 6241 or follow him on Twitter @joeolenick.