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Budget Passes; Council Reduces Tax Increase

Utica, NY (WIBX) - The average homeowner will see his property tax bill in Utica increase by $42.  The Common Council adopted Mayor David Roefaro’s budget by an 8-to-1 margin. Councilman Frank Vescera was the only no vote.

The council did make one change, cutting funding for the library from $300,000 to $150,000. That reduced the property tax increase from 3.9 to 3.2-percent.

Before several library supporters spoke out urging councilors to reconsider the slash in fuding.  One suggestion was that instead of a cut of $150,000, the city only slash funding by $75,000. That failed by a 6-3 vote. Councilors Vescera, Jim Zecca and Ed Bucciero supported the change.

Councilors also voted to accept a federal SAFER grant, allowing the city to add eight firefighters at no cost, for two years. Roefaro says the grant will help reduce overtime and pension padding.

“Even though we have to pay for those firefighters in the third year, because we would have paid for replacement overtime anyway, it’s a wash.”

Councilman Vescera also objected to the SAFER grant, arguing that by accepting the funding the city would not be able to layoff firefighters. One condition of the grant is that the city can’t reduce its fire department compliment for the duration of the grant. Vescera said that would give the firefighters an unfair advantage at the bargaining table, as the city prepares to negotiate a new union contract.

Utica’s police and fire contracts expire at the end of this month and negotiations are expected to being soon.

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