Utica Mayor Robert Palmieri presented his initial 2013-2014 budget to the Board of Estimate and Apportionment this morning. The nearly 65-million dollar budget includes a 3.75 percent tax increase and no cuts to public safety.
The E & A board adopted the budget, but it wasn’t unanimous. Two of the board members voted to table the budget for time to take a deeper look before passing it on to the common council. But they were overpowered in a 3-2 vote. And Mayor Palmieri says while times are tough, this is a “realistic” budget.”
“It is structurally the responsibility of this administration to provide the best possible services at the least possible cost,” says Mayor Rob Palmieri, (D) City of Utica.
The Mayor’s plan contains no new hiring and no increases in discretionary spending, but taxes would rise. For the average homeowner with a house valued at $50,000 dollars, they’ll see their taxes rise by about $3.50 per month.
“I think we put together a sound budget, minimizing our cuts, maximizing our opportunities and keeping the taxes as low as possible,” says Mayor Palmieri.
The Mayor says he’s continuing his objective to permanently decrease the size of the city’s workforce. No city employees will lose their jobs but since last year’s budget cycle, ten positions have become vacant and they will remain that way. Those vacancies are in the DPW, Codes, and Park departments.
“As much as our population decreased, the needs for public safety has increased and we’re mindful of that,” says Mayor Palmieri.
And while the Mayor calls his budget structured and balanced, some board members say it’s just not feasible.
“It’s unattainable to continue to sustain these pensions, these retirements, and these salaries,” says William Morehouse, Utica Common Council President.
“Yes the Mayor has had the staff working on this for over a year, yes we’ve had some dialogue, but this is the first time that we’ve seen the culmination of all that hard work and dialogue,” says Edward Bucciero, (D) Utica Common Councilman.
These 2 board members voted against the plan. Both saying they did not have enough time to review it.
“And we just wanna see the actual details that got him to 3.75 before we pass it to the common council,” says Bucciero.
“We’re supposed to look at the budget and pass what we feel is realistic and I saw it this morning for the first time at 9 o’clock so in 20 minutes, it’s hard to do that,” says Morehouse.
Still, the board passed the budget 3-2. The Mayor will bring his budget proposal directly to the people in 3 Citizens’ Budget Forums.The first is tonight at 6:30 at the Jewish Community Center. The JCC is located at 2310 Oneida Street in South Utica.
Mayor Palmieri will conduct two additional public meetings as follows:
February 21, 6:30 PM, Utica School of Commerce, Room 122, 201 Bleecker Street, Downtown Utica.
February 25, 6:30 PM, in conjunction with the North Utica Neighborhood Association, North Utica Senior Center, 50 Riverside Drive, Utica.