Common Council Prepares To Vote On Utica Budget [LIVE BLOG]
8:28 p.m. – Votes are cast and the budget is passed, 9-0.
8:23 p.m. – The vote comes up for the budget with a 1.99% tax increase. The budget is for $64,280,201.94. Colosimo-Testa, who voted “no” to several amendments is qualifying her statement now, and is the only one yet to cast a vote.
8:20 p.m. – Ordinance #20 comes up for vote. This is the drop in auto equipment funding for the police. The vote is 6-3 in favor.
8:10 p.m. – Council is passing most amendments though there are a couple of 8-1 votes so far. An amendment to reduce Fire Prevention OT was passed 5-4.
8:02 p.m. – Fire Chief Russ Brooks is up to speak. He calls the budget “gimmick free” and says the Council made cuts in an orderly fashion, though he sees some problems in the cuts. He is making a case for keeping public safety numbers high. Brooks does commend the Council on making cuts, but makes the case for unfunded contract lines, saying it will “come back to haunt you.”
7:59 p.m. – Police Chief Mark Williams says his officers are leaving because they don’t feel the Utica Police Department is a “secure job.” He adds that the City of Norwich is advertising for lateral transfers, aiming them at Utica’s Police force. He says the department is earning the moniker of an unstable department, and is unable to pick up the best employees they can.
7:57 p.m. – President Morehouse thanks the Council for its “due diligence” to balance the budget as well as they did. He calls the show-up pay arbitration a “morale killer” for the city’s officers.
7:49 p.m. – Councilman Jim Zecca apologizes to Joe Marino for an outburst earlier in the evening. He says he appreciates the work being done, but the city cannot let its guard down. Zecca says this does not end the process, especially with more than 20 percent of people living in poverty. City unemployment rate = 9.6 percent.
7:45 p.m. – Jerome McKinsey is talking about several recent incidents within the city, including homicides, shots fired calls and the recent Adrean Terrace fire. He says taxpayers should be willing to pay a little bit more to keep the public services they rely on. He notes that he hopes the Council hasn’t thrown too much away in the way of public safety.
7:43 p.m. – Councilman Joe Marino says if state aid comes and is added to the budget, he would be happy to work with department heads to try and get them the equipment they need to operate. Earlier, he mentioned the need to help taxpayers.
7:39 p.m. – About 50 amendments were made to the budget to reach the amount. The tax increase amounts to about .455 to each $1,000 of assessed value.
7:35 p.m. – The dollar amount needed to reach the 2 percent adjusted total tax levy is noted as $24,909,718. By falling below
7:13 p.m. – The Common Council emerged from their executive meeting with a budget falling below the 2% tax cap. It sits at 1.99%, but leaves several problems including a $100,000 decrease to the Utica Police Department. Marino said he supported the decrease, noting that between having new police cars or keeping taxes low, he would choose the lower taxes.
Chief Mark Williams stood, addressing the council. He said the fleet is poor right now, with about 25 percent of the cars reaching ten years old or older. He went on to say that his officers should have safe vehicles, and not have to lose patrol zones because of problems.
Morehouse agreed, mentioning that by keeping the cars in the budget, it only amounts to .2 of one percent.
An argument also flared up between Councilmen Jim Zecca and Joe Marino regarding the failure of Zecca’s proposal to raise the price of blue bags by 10 cents.