AUBURN | The Auburn City Council pulled out all the stops in its discussions to save money.
Thursday, City Manager Douglas Selby presented the 2013 Re-engineering Task Force Report, which outlines opportunities for cost reductions, improved efficiencies and improved revenue.
The task force was formed after the last budget process, Selby said.
Within the report, using input from six task forces within the city, were proposals to implement a paperless agenda system, hire a part-time city courier to reduce time city employees are out of the office delivering messages, use postcards instead of sealed envelopes for a number of mailings, change expiring union contracts, consolidate services with regional municipalities and others.
Selby said labor costs make up about 70 percent of the budget, so ideas that don't involve efficiencies will save money, but not a lot.
"Efficiency gains and reducing wastes ... there's some really good opportunities there to save us money, but it's not going to save us hundreds of thousands of dollars or millions of dollars," he said.
Councilors discussed different approaches to the budget.
Councilor John Camardo wanted to preserve public works and public safety.
"I think those areas are what we're going to try to keep intact," he said. "Those are the services people expect."
Councilor Matt Smith talked about union contracts and his desire to avoid ones that will make the city's fiscal problems worse.
"We need to have contracts that the people of Auburn can afford," he said. "What we've got to do right now is make sure we're pinching our pennies. ... We need to question every single dime that is spent in this city."
Councilor William Graney said he would like to share services with Cayuga County for human resources, a department the city doesn't have.
Mayor Michael Quill then shared a letter he received from Michael Chapman, Cayuga County legislator (District 2), in which Chapman detailed a grant that is available to study consolidation of city and county highway departments. Chapman also asked if the city would be interested in sharing payroll and human resources.
Smith supported a fee for owners of vacant houses who don't rent or sell them, but rather let them sit empty.
"They're a mess. They're vacant," Smith said. "You have transients going in and out of there — squatters, if you will."
Jennifer Haines, city planning and economic development director, agreed, saying multiple departments spend time and resources checking into and policing the vacant properties, whose owners may live outside the state.
"I think this would be a great way to recover our costs," she said.
Councilor Peter Ruzicka suggested asking residents to volunteer to do simple jobs, such as picking up litter or maintaining greenery.
The only issue, Selby said, would be potential liabilities if residents were injured on city property while using city equipment, but said it could be possible with waiver forms.