AUBURN | Auburn Community Hospital is getting a break.
The Auburn City Council agreed last week to give one of the city's largest employers a 25-cent discount on each unit of water it uses and on its sewer rate for the next year. The resolution was approved with only Councilor John Camardo voting against it.
City Councilor Matt Smith said the hospital deserves the discount, which would save it $14,000 during the next 12 months. He cited the jobs and taxes the hospital provides.
"We lose this hospital, we lose this city," he said at last week's meeting. "We're going to be spending money changing the signs from the City of Auburn to the Village of Auburn."
Smith also said having a hospital in the city is necessary; otherwise people who need emergency care will always be guaranteed a long ambulance ride to Syracuse or elsewhere.
According to the resolution, Auburn Community Hospital provides 1,380 jobs directly and indirectly, spends more than $161 million for payroll, purchases and capital expenses and accounts for more than $4.7 million in state and local sales taxes.
Smith also said the discount to the hospital would not create an additional cost for taxpayers, but Camardo did not buy that explanation.
"This would be $14,000 in obligations to the city," Camardo said.
Smith countered, saying the discount for the hospital is already built into the rate and that the rate, although it did increase recently, did not increase due to the rate adjustment for the hospital.
"There's no loss. There's no charge to the taxpayers for this," Smith said. "Taxpayers — you're not on the hook for this."
Councilor William Graney agreed with the discount, saying the hospital needs all the financial help it can get.
Councilor Peter Ruzicka also was in support of giving the hospital a break. He said the $14,000 the hospital will save in the next year due to the rate adjustment is enough to purchase two ventilators.
"I'm looking at it as two pieces of lifesaving equipment that they can purchase," he said.
The other top water users in the city are Auburn Correctional Facility, Nucor Steel, Mercy Health & Rehabilitation Center and ITT Corp. (Goulds Pumps).
Vicky Murphy, director of municipal utilities for the city, said the council has no known plans to offer any other discounts to the other top users, and said none of the other users have come forward requesting such a discount.