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.

Staff writer Nathan Baker can be reached at 282-2238 or nathan.baker@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter at CitizenBaker.

(23) comments

gramma4

I was at the city council meeting last night and FINALLY it appears we have a council with some intelligence and serious oversight regarding the budget. They were going thru the proposed bugget line by line analyzing each and every cost and in most cases sticking to the reductions they had recommended and not being swayed by the mayor, city manager or other factors. Matt Smith is totally correct that due to the past councils passing irresponsible budgets the city is in this position. He is also correct that by giving out the monster AIDA PILOTS the city is losing major money. I don't like to see anyone lose a job, but like the school district, the chickens have come home to roost and the hard decisions have to be made. From where I sit, two things should have happened, since 2007 when the recession hit the PILOTS should have been cut back and more oversight given to the budget to avoid the currant situation of having to do serious cuts and avoid tax increases.

patchwork

The Tax Foundation has ranked Cayuga County as being 15th out of over 1800 counties nationwide when measuring taxes as a percentage of home value. That ranking shows that taxpayers are more than justified when they complain and those high taxes have been driving away productive citizens and businesses for years. Syracuse has been reported as being only 2 years away from being broke and Auburn probably isn't far behind unless we get our financial house in order. I applaud Smith, Graney, Camardo and Ruzicka for taking on the difficult an unpopular task of cutting spending. It has to be done and anyone opposed to the cuts, need to propose cuts of their own. Kicking the can down the road is no longer an option. Make the cuts, streamline departments and increase efficiency and if department heads are not up to the task, perhaps they need to step aside. It's time to move forward, we have no choice and we'll all be better for it.

fullytaxed

I may not agree with all the cuts proposed, But I dont think the planning Dept was cut enough. Just what have you done for Auburnians other than give away the farm for what in return? You have cost the tax payers dearly. So where are those out of town jobs/employers Jenifer? So a few low paying, no benifit jobs that arent here yet? You have given a free ride to the Stardust millionaires. I want to redo my porch, can I have a 25 year pilot please.

patchwork

"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."

"allows me to go to meetings for most of the day"? Does this really deserve a well thought out comment from an over burdened taxpayer?

auburn83

[quote]fullytaxed said: "I may not agree with all the cuts proposed, But I dont think the planning Dept was cut enough. Just what have you done for Auburnians other than give away the farm for what in return? You have cost the tax payers dearly. So where are those out of town jobs/employers Jenifer? So a few low paying, no benifit jobs that arent here yet? You have given a free ride to the Stardust millionaires. I want to redo my porch, can I have a 25 year pilot please."[/quote]

Just look at Jennifer's salary ... start there


That department has never been run properly ... everyone in it has been against progress and change ... you need progressive thinkers running that department, Jennifer is fully satisfied to go in and collect her check with minimal to no results.

davidt
davidt

Congratulations! You eliminated Auburn jobs! I can hear the job creators knocking at the city gates! Wait, they're not coming? I hope Camardo and Smith are walking around this weekend explaining that the parking chaos and lackluster public investment is THEIR FAULT. Our city council feels that the top priority is saving a few cents for the short-sighted and selfish curmudgeons. There has never been a greater need for vast stimulus locally and federally, yet even the best of our community leaders are woefully short-sighted. Instead, our councilors should be taking out major loans to enforce: no more cars, bike lanes everywhere, raised crosswalks, downtown repair grants, alternative energy grants, stricter city service boundaries, higher county taxes, permeable pay-parking lots only. This isn't my position - these are merely alternatives to the extremist views being presented in this comment field and in the article. Auburn: you are way out of touch with reality and the 21st Century.

Unknown

Matt Smith, and the other council members: I applaud your efforts. Hard decisions had to be made, and you guys are doing it. It's unfortunate that some will be on the hard side of those decisions, but the overspending had to come to an end. Thank you.

ifitwalkslikeaduck

So Smith says during the meeting that neither he or his wife have had a raise in three years. But, if you check here
http://seethroughny.net/payrolls/schools/
You find that in 2009 he made just over $56,000 as a Weedsport School Teacher and in 2011 he mad over $59,000.
Why is it so hard to tell the truth?

jeffyg

Eliminating all of the jobs that are necessary to grow our city and its employment base is not sound thinking. Who will market the city? I agree with cutting things, but who will take over these important jobs? Is that part of the plan or are the councilors simply cutting by line item? If so, cut your own benefits first to show us a good faith effort. Have they looked at increasing employee contribution to health care costs? That's correct the union dictates that. I recall our former manager saying that our city was in great financial shape. Where is the truth in that? Parks and rec has been decimated, laying off people, not bringing in manufacturing jobs because they can't play together with the county to land the cheese factory, hmm the real question is what is being done to bring jobs in? Folks our services will diminish and we will be holding the bag. Demand what changes that need to occur. Speak out folks, don't sit idly by. It is our city, not theirs.

Floretta

[quote]patchwork said: ""allows me to go to meetings for most of the day"? Does this really deserve a well thought out comment from an over burdened taxpayer? "[/quote]

Patchwork, the job of police chief is an ADMINISTRATIVE position. Mr Gianotta HAS to meet with the mayor, city council members, union representatives, civil service, other police officials and law enforcement agencies, vendors, auditors, analysts, and the general public. He is the CEO, so to speak, for the police department. And I expect he still goes out in person on the occasional early morning drug raid, and meets professional requirements to maintain and improve his skills as an officer. Meetings and paperwork are the lot of any manager at the top: disciplinary hearings, responding to complaints (official and just getting stopped on the street or called at home - yes, people do that, it's a 24/7 job) and approving scheduled leaves etc. - it's a fulltime job and a half.

cheeko

PUT COUNCILMAN TOM BACK AT THE HELM.

DrMMcLaughlin

Sheltering Auburn's chronically homeless people in area motels, jail and area hospitals - and then often recycling them right back onto the street - is massively expensive compared to housing them in transitional housing accompanied by supportive services. In addition, the longer homeless people remain living outdoors, the more police resources their outdoor activities consume. IMO, this practice represents reckless overspending of taxpayer dollars. It is also inhumane.

NewAuburnian

WAY TO GO, MR. SMITH! You and Mr. Graney have been the ONLY voices of reason in the City Council for years. The public did you both a disservice by not electing responsible people to help you in the past. Mr. Palesh left the City with a $10M surplus and an A Bond Rating. He advised the City Council that it was time for employee cuts, fee increases and a modest tax increase. For two years this advice was ignored in order for Quill and the other two Amigos to be re-elected, at the expense of the City. At lease Brower and McNap are now history, but the damage is done. If you or Bill would have run for Mayor, you would now have 5 sane people at City Hall to reverse the bumbling of the Three Amigos. GOOD LUCK TO THE FOUR OF YOU! Our prayers are with you...

patchwork

Flo wrote "Mr Gianotta HAS to meet with the mayor, city council members, union representatives, civil service, other police officials and law enforcement agencies, vendors, auditors, analysts, and the general public. He is the CEO, so to speak, for the police department."

Seriously, he's the CEO? No he's a department head. Yes a dept head may need a meeting now and then, but if he's spending most of his day in meetings, then he has to manage his time a little better and have fewer meetings. That's the real world, adapt, step aside or get run over by someone who can do your job better. How many "meetings" did he have building that Urban Assault Vehicle that is now used for parades? Maybe we can rent that out or put a snowplow on it for the winter.

Hometown315

How about we just cut ALL overtime! How much would that save?

owastocat

Davidt is spot on.
The negative comments on here are not offering solutions. The bashing of AIDA is shortsighted.
If PILOTS were eliminated, who would invest millions into this city while creating jobs and possibly a brighter future for this city? If JBJ Real Property had not stepped up to improve the buildings, they would have been torn down at the city's expense and off the tax rolls for good. This is a win-win for the city and surrounding areas. Some jobs will be created/maintained in the construction/restoration of the buildings, and the future has a least a potential for a tax base. Without restoring these buildings, we get nothing and we pay for the demolition.

auburn83

Former Chief Costello never had problems managing his schedule

What Smith and Graney are trying to do is hold people accountable and make people EARN their pay.

The average city salary for 295 employees off the SeeThroughNY site was $55600 ... that is base pay - does not include OT or health benefits

Maybe it is time the city looked to see if they are getting their moneys worth from employees earning over $65k yearly? If not dump the bums and bring in someone who can get the job done!

gramma4

I agree with "fullytaxed" where are the jobs Jennifers dept is supposed to bring to Auburn??? I have not seen any major influx if new business coming to Auburn. As for the Bartolottas, they got a major free ride at the taxpayers expense. The Lofts still has not created the 3 jobs promised. The construction/restoration jobs will be short term and any jobs that come out of the so called "retail" will not be high end jobs. These people are in business to make money and have the taxpayer subsidize their projects. In the long term the city and school dist lose millions in tax revenue, while the average taxpayer will see their taxes go up to pick up the slack. Fortunately the mayor can no longer be the deciding vote and give the depts anything they want,and we have a council that is really examining all the issues and asking for accountability from the city depts to justify the funds budgeted for them, and the monster PILOTS given by AIDA needs to stop & be closely controlled.

patchwork

owastocat wrote "If JBJ Real Property had not stepped up to improve the buildings, they would have been torn down at the city's expense and off the tax rolls for good."

This is an absolutely false statement. Try dealing with actual facts when trying to make a point.

irritated

City and County employees are over paid, and benefits are ridiculous! I used to be one so I know!

Why get rid of the parking enforcement positions? The City raised the fees for 6 month parking permits by 40$ each, a total rape of those who have to pay it because of thier jobs! Where is all that money going if you are slashing positions? And why do you OVERSELL Dill St lot? Permit buyers are NOT guaranteed a parking spot (that they paid for) because they are oversold, AND they sell metered spots to anyone who wants one for a few hours so if you have a permit, and there are no permit spots left, good luck finding a regular metered spot! But dont forget to pay your extra 40$ you for nothing! We should be used to it around here...

onewhoknows

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

perhaps a more compelling argument would be to state all the companies they have persuaded... are there any?

auburn83

[quote]onewhoknows said: "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 Auburnperhaps a more compelling argument would be to state all the companies they have persuaded... are there any?"[/quote]

It goes back to the time Cindy Aikman was involved with the Planning Office. They only wanted to target certain businesses into the community and had a philosophy of creating businesses locally ... they would NEVER aggressively target a business from outside the county unless forced (i.e. publicized).

They also were opposed to expanding the community (annexing land from Sennett along Prospect) and were comfortable 'marketing a small city'.

There were business leads given to them that went ignored and these businesses settled in Ithaca, Geneva, Liverpool instead.

Molly10

Sometimes change EVENTUALLY leads to better things...lets hope this is one of those times.. thoughts..

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