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Utica Common Council Passes City Budget

Gino Geruntino, WIBX

Utica’s Common Council voted unanimously to approve Mayor Rob Palmieri’s 2013-14 budget, while also reducing the tax rate to below two percent.

Though almost all of the changes to this year’s budget were approved unanimously, one amendment split the Council.

In a 6 to 3 vote, the council passed a measure to reduce the automotive equipment budget for the UPD, from more than $143,000 to nothing. Those voting against the controversial defunding were Frank Vescera, Rocco Giruzzi and Jerome McKinsey.

But, Councilman Frank Meola says the cuts needed to be made to lessen the burden on taxpayers.

“Of course we’re going to look for funds during the years for the police cars,” Meola said. “The ten cent blug bag fell because there wasn’t communication. If we do get that funding during the year, of course we’ll probably reinstate those cars.”

With the current budget in place, Utica taxpayers will have a 1.99 percent tax increase, well below the Mayor’s 3.75 percent proposal.

Utica’s Budget Director, Peter Fiorillo, says he would have have been happier with the Mayor’s proposal, but can work with the Common Council’s cuts.

“We could have used a larger tax increase,” Fiorillo said. “The city, as everyone knows, is in tough financial times. I think the Mayor’s proposal was very fair and modest. Unfortunately, the two percent tax cap came down from the Governor’s office and the Council wanted to abide by it. But, in our current environment it’s very difficult to live with.”

He does say there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

“If all goes well, I think we could be on much more solid ground in three years,” Fiorillo said. “If we continue like this and we do the responsible thing, unfortunately it is a government and there are changes in high positions and people start going different ways. It’s keeping our debt under control. That’s what puts the largest strain on the budget.”

Fiorillo also added that the city is not close to being taken over by a control board, regardless of what recent rumors have said.

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