AUBURN | A gallery of city employees waited tensely Thursday night as Auburn City councilors went through the city's budget department by department cutting equipment, supplies and positions during a six-hour meeting.
A call from City Manager Douglas Selby for the councilors to propose their own spending reductions to the $36 million 2012-13 fiscal year budget yielded $2.3 million in cuts.
Still shy of the $5.3 million needed to fill the hole in the general fund, the local lawmakers said the deductions, which included nine lost positions, were difficult to formulate.
"I know these are difficult times, and it's difficult to sit here and make these cuts that we're going to be doing tonight," Councilor John Camardo said.
Councilor Matthew Smith laid the blame for the deep cuts on previous councils.
"These cuts are the result of a totally irresponsible budget that the past council rammed through last year," he said. "Everyone knew it was structurally imbalanced. Everyone knew."
Among the hardest affected departments were planning and economic development and parking enforcement.
Three of the eight positions in the planning department were recommended for layoffs for $238,078 in savings.
Planning Department Director Jennifer Haines strongly urged the council to reconsider the cut of the community development planner, economic development coordinator and administrative assistant from her department.
As Renee Jensen and Alicia McKeen — two of the employees recommended for layoffs — stood by, Haines offered $88,920 in cuts from other line items to save their jobs.
She said without a community development planner, the city would be unable to coordinate and administer Community Development Block Grant projects and conduct brownfield remediation.
Without Tricia Ottley, the city's economic development coordinator, the city would no longer be able to reach out to prospective companies to persuade them to relocate to Auburn.
The councilors ultimately decided to put off their decision on the three planning positions, and the budget, until Tuesday, asking Haines to present other scenarios for cuts to save the positions.
The parking supervisor and full-time parking enforcement officer didn't get that chance, however.
To save $118,164, the council eliminated the former, currently held by Julie Liccion and cut the latter to part-time.
"You're taking away all the full-time positions in that department," Police Chief Gary Giannotta said. "Who's going to do the work now? To cut these positions is a huge mistake."
"Everybody else in the private sector can adapt, but the public sector can't," Smith answered. "It's a service that we can't afford, and that's what people in this building don't get."
The deputy chief and a currently vacant detective position were also eliminated from the police department's budget.
"There's definitely going to be an effect on services," Giannotta said of the cuts. "Deputy Chief (Thomas) Murphy has the experience to run the department, which allows me to go to meetings for most of the day and do the things the council wants me to do."
With the planning department's budget up in the air, the council decided to table the final vote until a special meeting on Tuesday at 5 p.m.