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October 12, 2012

City budget hearing delayed

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — The Common Council voted Monday to push back the date of its annual public hearing on the proposed city budget.

The hearing will be held at 6 p.m. Oct. 30, not next week, the Council decided by unanimous vote in a special meeting called to order Monday afternoon, during a budget work session.

Also, the aldermen decided after talking with Mayor Michael Tucker, the tentative budget that’s shown in the public hearing will not contain clues about where administration is aiming to get concessions from city employee unions.

Last week, Tucker said the tentative budget would show year-over-year reductions in line items tied to employee compensation, to show the public how city administration will hold the line on taxes.

He had a change of heart about that over the weekend, he told the Council on Tuesday, and is now recommending the budget not show cuts in employee compensation, specifically fringe benefits such as medical insurance, longevity pay and education stipends. Those benefits are all bargained for, and administration appearing to impose reductions unilaterally could be construed by the unions as “bad faith” bargaining.

“We’ll be at an impasse before we even start negotiations,” Tucker said. “We all know where we need to be (spending-wise). Let’s give (negotiations) an opportunity before we put numbers out on the floor. Maybe the unions have some alternative suggestions” for achieving reductions.

The Council is meeting with its recently hired third-party negotiator, Sam Iraci, next week. Hopefully Iraci will meet with the unions shortly after that, Tucker said.

When the tentative budget is rolled out at the end of the month, it may or may not show a more-than 2 percent tax levy increase, depending on early signs from labor and firming up of revenue and spending estimates. If it does drive a more-than-2 percent increase, administration will reiterate its pledge, in the public hearing, that the final budget will not. All six aldermen agreed again Monday that they would not support a local law to exceed the state-imposed 2 percent tax cap.

Also in the special session, the Council scheduled its 2013 budget adoption vote for Nov. 21.

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