Vescera and Zecca: City should try furloughs

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - When Congress let the March 1 sequester deadline pass, that meant billions in federal cuts would take place, with many government workers facing furloughs. Now, two Utica City Councilmen are thinking furloughs for city workers is a good idea to help keep property tax hikes to a minimum.

In Rome, D-FAS workers will have one day a week without pay for 22 weeks starting in April.

Utica Councilman Frank Vescera said, "When you look at what's going on, not only here, other municipalities throughout the state, throughout the country, again doing it in a fair and equitable way is something we really tried to do, instead of picking on one group or one section of city government."

Vescera and Councilman Jim Zecca will be introducing a furlough program at Monday night's finance meeting in order to try and reduce an expected 3.75% property tax increase in this year's budget, which is expected to be voted on Wednesday.

Vescera said, "If we went down and had an 11 1/2 day furlough for each person on the payroll and that includes Council members, everyone across the board without exception, that would be approximately be one day a month."

Vescera says under the plan, to get down from the 3.75 % tax increase to the governor's two percent property tax increase limit, every city worker would be furloughed just under five days a year. To get it down to a zero percent tax increase, it would be nine days per year. But Vescera says the best thing to do would be to go from a 3.75% to a 1% decrease and that would mean 11.4 furlough days or just about one day off per month.

He said, "The department heads shall certify that no comp time, overtime, sick time, personal time or vacation time, should be used during this period to make up for the furlough time. It has to be done legitimately. And I think if everyone puts their heads together, and we've heard it, we've heard this throughout the years, we are a Renaissance City, a Handshake City, you've head all the cliches, this is the time to prove it."

Union President for the Utica Fire Department Bob Wenner responded to the idea, saying, "Public safety, both police and fire, have already been cut as far as they can. Any further reductions through either a furlough or other means would change services in the City of Utica."

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