BY JOE OLENICK
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal —
Nine city firefighters and four city police officers would be laid off under Lockport's current version of the 2014 budget, while the tax levy would remain flat.
In its current form, the budget stands at $23.7 million, a $1.2 million increase from the 2012 budget. It keeps the levy flat at $10.48 million, about $338,000 under the tax cap, which would cause roughly a nine-cent increase in the tax rate to about $14.82 per $1,000 of assessed land value.
The city's assessed valuation should drop to $707.7 million, down from $711.8 million. The expected impact on an average home assessed at $85,000 is a $7.31 increase in taxes.
But officials made it clear those numbers could change, as the city still has a $162,923 deficit to cover. What'll change is unknown, as further cuts could be coming, or layoffs could be offset by retirements.
City officials will continue talking to unions about cuts, especially with the Lockport Police and Fire departments. Each department employs roughly 50.
If savings are found in other ways, personnel could be spared, said Mayor Michael W. Tucker.
"We're going to sit down together and figure out the best way to run the department," Tucker said. "It's possible no one goes. These aren't things we want to do, we're losing good, talented, quality people. But there's nothing left to do."
Earlier in the budget process, city officials were aiming to keep the levy flat. But it's possible that number could change as well. Common Council President Anne McCaffrey said while officials want to avoid raising the levy, she wasn't sure that would still be possible.
Common Council members met Wednesday to talk about the 2014 budget with John Schiavone of Lumsden & McCormick. He referred to the spending plan as "paper thin."
According to Schiavone's presentation, Lockport is facing a 12.6 percent increase in healthcare costs. The current budget also has a position being cut in each of the city Building Inspector's Office, the Youth and Highway departments.
Tucker said city unions have been helpful in the budget process so far. The police department provided a list of $483,955 in cuts, such as reductions in overtime and a host of other budgetary areas. Discussions are continuing with city firefighters, Tucker said.
"We've gotten help, the unions have been very receptive," he said.
Council members will meet twice next week, on Tuesday and Thursday, to continue working on the budget.
A public hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m. Nov. 13 in council chambers. It's expected the Common Council will adopt a budget the following week on Nov. 20.Contact reporter Joe Olenick at 439-9222, ext. 6241 or follow him on Twitter @joeolenick.