UPDATED STORY: Fulton city budget passes 5-1; Knopp elected council president

Common Council President and 5th Ward Councilor Norman "Jay" Foster addresses the council.
Common Council President and 5th Ward Councilor Norman “Jay” Foster addresses the council.

By Ashley M. Casey

After an emotion-filled public hearing, the Fulton Common Council approved the 2014 budget by a vote of 5-1. 

The single dissenting vote was made by outgoing First Ward councilor Alan Emrich.

The property tax rate is set to increase 15.22 percent, bringing taxes to $19.66 per $1,000 of assessed value, up from $17.06 per $1,000 in 2013.

About two dozen people attended the public hearing Dec. 26. Several citizens spoke out against the $50,000 cut to the Fulton Public Library, which Mayor Ronald L. Woodward Sr. said could be picked up by taxes collected by the Fulton school district. (See sidebar story.)

Linda Rossiter, a librarian at the Fulton Public Library, listed several benefits of the library, including activities, crafts and homework help for children, and services for job-seeking adults.

“In times when money is extremely tight, your public library becomes one of your best assets,” Rossiter said. “(This cut) is not acceptable to nearly all of your community members.”

In a Jan. 2 phone interview with The Valley News, the mayor explained the city’s reasoning behind raising the pay of the city’s department heads, except for acting fire chief Paul E. Foster III.

Foster is paid per union contract negotiations, as he was deputy chief when Woodward appointed him acting chief.

“They mirror what the unions do,” Woodward said. “The department heads, along with the union, took a cut in pay over a three-year period.”

As for DPW Commissioner Dan O’Brien, who also heads the water and sanitation departments, Woodward said he is doing “the job of two people.”

“He is paid less than the last person who had that job eight years ago,” the mayor said.

At the public hearing, the mayor announced the budget will eliminate a cleaner position in the Municipal Building, but the employee is considering an offer to remain as a part-time or seasonal worker.

A clerical position in the clerk/chamberlain’s office is being transferred to the water department as well.

Legislator-elect Frank Castiglia Jr., 25th district, addresses the Common Council.
Legislator-elect Frank Castiglia Jr., 25th district, addresses the Common Council.

Legislator-elect Frank Castiglia Jr. said  city officials need to “think outside the box” to ease the budget’s strain on the community.

He had several suggestions regarding city employees, including a 32-hour work week, city residency requirements and making all new hires part-time or seasonal employees.

However, Castiglia acknowledged it was too late to make many changes to the 2014 budget.

“Table this budget right now, go into an executive session, reconsider,” Castiglia said. “Go with last year’s budget because I know you don’t have time to go with anything else. Come up with something we can live with.”

Emrich also suggested the council to enter executive session to discuss it further, but the rest of the council and the mayor declined.

Council President and Fifth Ward Councilor Norman “Jay” Foster questioned Emrich’s “no” vote and asked what ideas Emrich had for the budget.

“You say no to that, but you don’t have any ideas,” Foster said. He also claimed that Emrich had been absent from three meetings in the last year, while Emrich said he had only missed one.

Emrich stood by his decision in his final statement as councilor.

“Every time I’ve voted yes or no, I’ve done it for what I feel is in the city’s best interest,” Emrich said. “I hope that other people will feel inspired to go with what is not necessarily the most liked answer.”

Foster later apologized for his “outburst” toward Emrich, saying, “I care very much for Fulton. I want the very best for it.”

At the Jan. 1 reorganizational meeting of the Common Council, Second Ward Councilor Dan Knopp was elected the new council president.

Second Ward Councilor Dan Knopp and outgoing Third Ward Councilor Pete Franco listen at the Dec. 26 public hearing for the 2014 Fulton city budget.
Second Ward Councilor Dan Knopp and outgoing Third Ward Councilor Pete Franco listen at the Dec. 26 public hearing for the 2014 Fulton city budget.

Grant approved to furnish high speed Internet in Parish

Empire State Development has approved more than $14.5 million in New York State Broadband Grants to support nine projects that will expand access to broadband services for nearly 30,000 residents and more than 2,000 businesses across Upstate New York.

One of those receiving a grant is New Visions Communications, for Parish Broadband in Oswego County. That grant totals $1,999,584.

According to a press release, the state is committed to accelerating the availability, affordability, and utilization of broadband technologies in order to grow New York’s economy.

Access to the numerous benefits of broadband access, such as e-commerce, e-government, telemedicine and distance learning will result in job creation, improved healthcare, greater educational opportunities for students and teachers, and enhanced economic development, the press release states.

 

OES installs officers

Lake City Victoria Chapter No. 205, The Order of Eastern Star), sister organization to Lake City Masonic Lodge No. 127, held its 2014 installation of new officers Sunday, Nov. 24 in the Oswego Masonic Temple, 765 E. Seneca St., Oswego.

The officers include: W Carla Salisbury- Worthy Matron; RW Grant DeLong- Worthy Patron; RW Cynthia Sanders- Associate Matron; Br. Leo Monette- Associate Patron; W Lillian Schute- Conductress; RW Rita DeLong- Associate Conductress; RW Natalie J. Woodall- Secretary; RW Nancy Costello- Treasurer; W Mildred Miller- Trustee; W Edwin Miller- Trustee; Br. Earl Wilson- Trustee; and W V. Jean Sanders- Warder.

Also: W Carol Reed- Sentinel; RW Earline Wood- Chaplain; RW Alan Wood- Color Bearer; Sr. Bettie Monette- Marshall; Sr. Bethany Reis- Assistant Marshall; Sr. Christine Dennison- Adah; Sr. Benita Reynolds- Ruth; RW Erma Cota- Esther; RW Mary Mason- Martha; RW Eileen Esford- Electa.

Special music was provided by Dan Williams, and visiting dignitaries included RW Rita DeLong- DDGM. A reception was held after the ceremony in the Masonic Hall.

For more information call the Lodge:  207-0127.

Phoenix varsity winter sports schedules

Scheduled for winter sports varsity team in the Phoenix school district.

All dates and times are subject to change.

 

Boys Basketball

Sat. 12/21/13-Cato Christmas tournament, TBA

Tues. 01/07/14-at Bishop Grimes-7 p.m.

Fri.  01/10/14-Marcellus-6:30 p.m.

Tues. 01/14/14-at ITC-6:30 p.m.

Thurs. 01/16/14-Skaneateles-6:30 p.m.

Wed. 01/22/14-at Cazenovia-7 p.m.

Fri. 01/24/14-at S.A.S.-6:30 p.m.

Wed. 01/29/14-Westhill-6:30 p.m.

Tues. 02/04/14-Solvay-6:30 p.m.

Fri. 02/07/14-Bishop Grimes-6:30 p.m.

Tues. 02/11/14-at Marcellus-7 p.m.

 

Girls Basketball

Thurs. 12/26/13-Mexico, Christmas tournament, Mexico-6:15 p.m.

Fri. 12/27/13-Mexico Christmas Tournament, TBA-4:30 OR 6:15

Mon. 01/06/14-Bishop Grimes-6:30 p.m.

Fri. 01/10/14-at Marcellus-7 p.m.

Mon. 01/13/14-at Skaneateles-6:30 p.m.

Wed.  01/15/14-Weedsport-6:30 p.m.

Tues. 01/21/14-Cazenovia-6:30 p.m.

Fri. 01/24/14-Bishop Ludden-6:30 p.m.

Wed. 01/29/14-at Westhill-7 p.m.

Mon. 02/03/14-at Solvay-6:30 p.m.

Wed. 02/05/14-at Bishop Grimes-7 p.m.

Tues. 02/11/14-Marcellus-6:30 p.m.

 

Wrestling

Sat. 12/21/13-Phoenix, Round Robin Tournament, 7 a.m.

Fri. 12/27/13-Ken Haines Tourney, at SUNY Oswego-TBA

Sat. 12/28/13-Ken Haines Tourney-at SUNY Oswego-TBA

Fri. 01/03/14-Central Square Duals-TBA

Sat. 01/04/14-Central Square Duals-TBA

Wed. 01/08/14-Skaneateles

Sat. 01/10/14-Eastern States-at Sullivan County Community College-TBA

Sat. 01/11/14-Fulton-4 p.m.

Sun. 01/12/14-Holland Patent-at Cornell, 1 p.m.

Wed. 01/15/14-at Cazenovia-5 p.m.

Tues. 01/21/14-at Port Byron-6 p.m.

Fri. 01/24/14-F-M-Binghamton University, 11 a.m.

Sat. 01/25/14-Section III Duals-at Cicero-North Syracuse-TBA

Sat. 02/01/14-Leagues-at Port Byron-TBA

Sat. 02/08/14-Classes-Location/Time-TBA

Sat. 02/15/14-Sectionals-at OCC-TBA

Sat. 02/28/14-States-at Albany-TBA

**The JV begins at the stated times. The varsity matches follow the conclusion of the JV matches.

 

Boys Indoor Track And Field

Mon. 12/30/13 Holiday Relays, OCC, 10 a.m.

Fri.  01/03/14, Constantino Memorial, Colgate, 4:30 p.m.

Tues. 01/14/14, Grieve Memorial, OCC, 4:30 p.m.

Tues. 01/21/14, Kirschenheiter Memorial, OCC, 4:30 p.m.

Wed. 02/05/14, Section III, OCC, 4:30 p.m.

Wed. 02/12/14, OHSL Leagues, OCC, 4:30 p.m.

Wed. 02/19/14, State Qualifier, OCC, 4:30 p.m.

Sat. 03/01/14, NYSPHSAA Championships, Cornell, 2 p.m.

 

Girls Indoor Track And Field

Mon. 12/30/13, Holiday Relays, OCC, 10 a.m.

Wed.  01/08/14, Constantino Memorial, OCC, 4:30 p.m.

Wed. 01/15/14, Grieve Memorial, OCC, 4:30 p.m.

Thurs. 01/23/14, Kirschenheiter Memorial, OCC, 4:30 p.m.

Wed. 02/05/14, Section III, OCC, 4:30 p.m.

Thurs. 02/13/14,  OHSL Leagues, OCC, 4:30 p.m.

Wed. 02/19/14, State Qualifier, OCC, 4:30 p.m.

Oswego Common Council adopts 2014 city budget

By Debra J. Groom

The Oswego Common Council 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. Twelve people spoke, many about keeping the codes enforcement office and DPW workers.

Mayor Thomas 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.

For more information on the budget and budget hearing, pick up a copy of Saturday’s The Valley News.

 

Oswego city budget public hearing at 7 tonight (Dec. 23)

By Debra J. Groom

Oswego residents will get their last chance to comment about the proposed city budget at tonight’s public hearing.

The hearing is at 7 p.m. in the Common Council chambers at City Hall. The council may vote to adopt a budget after the hearing, or, if more changes need to be made, could meet later in the week to adopt a budget.

So far, the council have whittled the budget down about $4 million, which has knocked about $4 a $1,000 off the proposed tax rate increase.

“They have taken my budget and edited it,” Mayor Thomas Gillen said. “They were pretty strong with the red pencil.”

With Gillen’s preliminary budget, taxes were set to increase 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.

But cuts have been made.

Gillen said some jobs that are vacant will not be filled. Fifteen positions are being cut in the Department of Public Works. Three people are being laid off in code enforcement. The city also is looking at unpaid two-week furloughs for city workers.

To date, the tax rate has been cut from $18.25 per $1,000 to $14.39 per $1,000.

Gillen said he isn’t happy with the layoffs.

“People are unhappy with the tax increase. I understand that,” he said. “But I think their anger may be clouding the decision making process.”

Common Council President Ron Kaplewicz, R-7th ward, said this is going to be a tough year to get through a budget.

“The options are: raise taxes, cut people or cut programs and services,” he said. “We’re looking at what we need to do for 2014. This is like tough love. We’re just beginning to take a hard look at how we do business.”

Some of the primary problems affecting the budget:

** A loss of assessed value in the city of about $50 million. When the city loses assessed value, other taxpayers have to make up that money to keep the services and programs going.

** An addition of about $400,000 for health insurance changes due to the federal Affordable Health Care Act.

** $300 million in city property that is not on the tax rolls. Kaplewicz said some of these properties, such as the hospital and the YMCA, obtain services from the city but do not pay taxes.

Gillen is worried cutting the Department of Public Works will leave the department short if the city is hit with a huge snow storm. He said people who have come to Oswego from other places “marvel at the way we remove snow” and he wonders if there will be enough people to keep snow off the roads if people are laid off.

There are 81 budgeted positions in DPW, but three positions are vacant so there are 78 employees right now.

Kaplewicz said part of the city’s problem is it didn’t raise taxes for so long that now, it has to have a huge tax hike to keep up with increasing costs. He said for 15 years, “tax increases were almost negligible.”

“I believe that was a mistake,” he said.

Another chance to learn about Oswego County’s muck farms Jan. 6

The Oswego County Farm Bureau will be hosting a series of Coffeecake Meetings on the first Monday of the winter months at 1 p.m. at the Mexico branch of the Oswego County Federal Credit Union on Route 3 (5828 Scenic Avenue).

The first will take place at 1 p.m. Jan. 6 with special guest speaker, Jim Farfaglia, author of “Of the Earth — Stories from Oswego County Muck Farms.”

Farfaglia also has agreed to do a book signing and will have books available for purchase.

These meetings are free and will be open to the public as well as Farm Bureau members. As the name implies, light refreshments will be served.

Future meeting speakers will include Josh Hornesky, a resource conservationist for the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service.

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