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Utica's financial headaches worsen, council to meet about small term loan

By JOLEEN FERRIS

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - The City of Utica's financial headaches continue to worsen, forcing the city to consider desperate measures just to keep the city operating.

On Friday, the common council will meet to approve a short term loan of several million dollars.

"Probably, see, we're not going to be able to make payroll next week and therefore, probably requesting this, so we can pay our employees," says Budget Director Peter Fiorillo, who plans on working through the weekend and the Monday President's Day holiday in order to hammer out the budget, due Tuesday.

The city would pay back the loan as soon as they get their second installment of state aid the end of March. Fiorillo says such short term loans are not a common occurrance due to bad timing.

"We haven't taken a short term note in about 10-11 years," says Fiorillo.

Adding to the city's financial stress, the city budget is due on Tuesday. At that time, the mayor hands it over to the city Board of Estimate and Apportionment for their approval.

He can give them a budget with more than a 2% property tax hike. The state recently enacted the 2% property tax cap, but the common council can approve raising it. It looks as though the mayor might just ask them to do that.

"We started out with roughly a 40% tax increase when we first got the numbers that have come in here and we've reduced it with some cuts already down to about 25%," says Mayor Robert Palmieri.

Public Safety makes up 57% of the city budget. The police and fire departments will be asked to make deep cuts.

Utica PBA President Dominick Nitti says if the police department were to cut from their budget what the city is asking them to, it'd mean nine fewer bodies in uniform. Nitti says that move would compromise safety both for the public and the police officers.

"It's a big safety issue now. I mean there's no two-man cars. If there's a car sent on a call, they're there by themselves for a little bit until another car can clear to help them out if needed," says Nitti.

The special council meeting is scheduled for Friday afternoon at 3 p.m.

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