Utica's Public Safety leaders optimistic after Finance Committee Meeting

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - Utica Police Chief Mark Williams and Utica Fire Chief Russell Brooks are both optimistic about the upcoming budget process after attending Saturday's Finance Committee Meeting at Utica's City Hall.

Chief Williams says he believes the members of his department will come to the table in the days to come. He says, "The feeling I get within my own department, they're willing to make concessions to save jobs."

Under Utica Mayor Robert Palmieri's proposed 2012-2013 city budget, there would be an 18 percent property tax increase along with about 40 job cuts that spread across numerous departments, but the bulk are in the police and fire departments.

The Common Council must come up with a compromised budget for the Mayor Palmieri to sign in just ten days, and those on the Finance Committee say an 18 percent property tax increase is too much for city residents to absorb. They want to get this figure down, but how far, right now there is no agreement.

Chief Brooks told the Finance Committee members Saturday afternoon that he believes up to 12 senior members in his department may be wiling to retire if they are offered a satisfactory retirement incentive package.

Fire officials told the committee, the senior members make, on average about $32,000 more each year than newer recruits, and that those early retirements would save the city a lot more than laying off a number of newer employees.

But again, early retirements are just one thing that may be negotiated over in the coming days.

Union leaders told Finance Committee Chairperson Ed Bucciero they want to see an actual dollar figure of how much each department needs to cut, before they will make any concessions.

Bucciero says he came away from Saturday's meeting with a very positive feeling and wants to come up with the data the union leaders are asking for. He said, "I want to get together with the mayor, we could get together, maybe as a council, with the mayor, call an emergency meeting, or get together and figure out what that number might really be. So we are just going to have to get to a number that can be achieved, put it out there, get in a room, hammer out a deal and get it done, and I think the window is really closing, but i think we may be able to do this if we move fast."

Chief Brooks says let's do it immediately, adding, "everyone involved, the Council, the Mayor, the unions, the administrators should come down to City Hall tomorrow and not leave until this problem is solved."

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