Packed house for Oswego City budget hearing Dec. 23

By Debra J. Groom

The Oswego Common Council unanimously adopted a budget for 2014 Monday night that will raise taxes by about $4.46 per $1,000 of assessed value for Oswego taxpayers.

That is much less than the original budget proposal that was going to raise taxes more than $8 per $1,000.

Also, the budget adopted Monday night reinstates 15 jobs that were going to be cut from the Department of Public Works and keeps Gallagher Pool open. Three positions in the codes enforcement office still remain cut in the adopted budget.

Also, the new budget includes 10-day unpaid furloughs for all city workers. Common Council President Ron Kaplewicz said this will have to be negotiated with employee unions, but he said it will be made clear to them that if furloughs are not taken, then job cuts will have to be made.

It was standing room only at the council chambers at City Hall as about 120 people showed up for the public hearing on the budget Monday night. A fire department official was counting poeple are they filed in to be sure the number did not exceed the fire code limit.

Twelve people spoke, many about keeping the codes enforcement office and DPW workers.

Barry McConnell, representing Local 200 United of the Service Employees International Union, told the council it would cost only 68 cents per $1,000 of assessed value to keep the 15 DPW workers on the job.

“I guarantee they will serve day after day, week after week and month after month,” he said of the workers. A huge contingent of SEIU Local United 200 employees were in the council chambers for the one-hour budget hearing.

Resident Sue Matthews told the council they have to continue pressing state officials for mandate relief.

Most local governments and school districts face mandates given to them by the state that they have to pay for and local officials say these mandates are too much of a drain on their budgets and taxpayers.

Cliff Wahrendorf told councilors they should try to come up with a way to obtain a user fee from properties that are tax exempt but still rely on city services.

Mayor Thomas Gillen and many councilors have said these properties, owned by city, state or county entities or nonprofits, receive snow removal, police and fire protection from the city but provide the city no payment in return and this is another drain on the city budget.

A couple of speakers also talked about raises being given to the police department and two councilors were serve as president and vice president of the council.

Common Council President Ron Kaplewicz explained the raise for him and vice president Mike Myers were approved nearly a year ago — at the 2013 reorganizational meeting in January. So these were not new raises

For the police, he said during police contract negotiations in the spring, it was found the city was losing a lot of young officers who were leaving to go to other departments where the pay was higher.

Kaplewicz said councilors decided lower pay scales had to increase to keep these younger officers in Oswego.

“After 10 years here, they could move to Fulton and make $10,000 more,” Kaplewicz said. “So we bumped the base salaries.”

Gillen’s preliminary budget increased taxes about 82 percent – from $10.03 per $1,000 of assessed valuation to $18.25 per $1,000. Owners of an average house assessed at $70,000 would pay $575 more in taxes in 2014 than in 2013 if cuts weren’t made.

The adopted budget raises taxes about 44.7 percent — from $10.03 per $1,000 to $14.49 per $1,000. This means owners of an average house assessed at $70,000 would pay about $312 more in taxes in 2014.


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