Roefaro refutes "friends and family" assertion at tax talk

By By JOLEEN FERRIS

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - Utica Mayor David Roefaro is taking his budget proposal on the road to a tough crowd.

They've fought wars, worked all their lives, and many now live on limited incomes and they want to know where their tax dollars are being spent - they are Utica seniors.

The mayor held his first 'tax talk' Tuesday at the North Utica Senior Center, where he told those in attendance that he and the Utica Common Council were able to pare down his proposed 18% property tax increase to around eight percent. Then, the seniors let loose with several questions.

First, a woman asked why, during such lean economic times, the mayor hired his cousin as his assistant. Mayor Roefaro responded by saying the city was lucky to have Angelo Roefaro-a top Syracuse University graduate- the majority of whose salary is paid through a grant from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Angelo Roefaro and Bloomberg's office forged a relationship while working on crime legislation.

Another senior asked the mayor to justify the Public Safety Commissioner's position. Mayor Roefaro's response to the senior was that the power structure was in place during the prior administration.

Mayor Roefaro told the crowd at the North Utica Senior Center that he and the council got the tax hike down by cutting positions at the Utica Police Department; three through attrition and four in the form of academy graduates who now will not be appointed to the department.

PBA Union President Sgt. Thomas Brady said he doesn't feel every option, other than taking cops off the street, was examined. Brady said there are perks - such as cell phones and take-home vehicles - that could have been explored before dismantling the core of public safety: the street cop.

The mayor will take 'tax talk' on the road to the Parkway Senior Center on Wednesday and the West Utica Senior Center on Thursday.

City residents of all ages can be heard during a public hearing March 17, 6:30pm at City Hall.

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