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Utica officials meet with state reps about advance on state aid

By HILARY LANE

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi and State Senator Joe Griffo met with Utica officials on Monday to discuss the city's finances.

The state representatives are pitching in to help Mayor Robert Palmieri and Comptroller Michael Cerminaro brainstorm on ways to put Utica back on a path towards a more stable financial future.

Brindisi and Griffo have already requested an advance of the $10.4 million in state aid payments expected at the end of March. On Monday, the state representatives asked questions of Utica officials to ensure the city has a fiscally responsible plan to administer the funds if received.

"We wanted to make sure we weren't just asking the state for money that would go and not address the true problems in Utica," said Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi of the 116th District. "It sounds like the mayor has a plan in place and we are willing to help him any way we can."

The mayor's proposed budget includes an 18 percent tax hike and lay-offs of 38 city employees to close a $7 million deficit.

How did the city get into this dire financial situation in the first place?

"Our expenditures have jumped and your revenues have not kept up," says Utica Mayor Robert Palmieri.

For example, retirement and medical health expenses totaled $7.5 million 10 years ago. For the 2012-2013 year, the cost is $19 million dollars. The revenue coming in can not support these escalating costs and the reserves are empty.

Also discussed at Monday's meeting was the possibility of the state coming in and taking over the city's finances.

"We want to try and keep this in local hands," says Brindisi. "I think we can solve this problem in Utica. This problem was created by the city and we want to work with the city to resolve the problems."

Brindisi will meet with Governor Cuomo's office Tuesday morning to continue discussions about an advance of the state aid payments.

The funds would pay off the $8 million short term loan the city took out to cover payroll and give the city school district its tax money.

Brindisi says other municipalities in the state have received early aid payments, so it is not out of the realm of possibilities for the city of Utica.

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