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Utica's Palmieri announces budget with 3.75 percent tax increase

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Utica's Palmieri announces budget with 3.75 percent tax increase
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The City of Utica cut dozens of police, firefighters and city employees with a tough budget last year, but this year's budget isn't looking nearly as ominous. YNN's Andrew Sorensen tells us what taxpayers can expect and how the city is already trying to save money for the future.

UTICA, N.Y.-- There was a lot to worry about going into Utica Mayor Robert Palmieri's budget presentation Tuesday.

"This budget reflects where we came from last year where we had close to an $8 million deficit," Palmieri said.

That left dozens of city employees, firefighters and police without jobs, the latest losses in a long fall for city hall.

"We have reduced our workforce from in 2009, which I believe was 630. We currently have 510 employees," Palmieri explained.

But this year's isn't as bad. With only a $4.1 million deficit, Palmieri is pushing to override the two percent tax cap with a 3.75 percent increase.

"At some point, we're going to have to address some of the needs within our departments," he said.

If it goes through unchanged, there are some cuts and closing of vacancies, but no layoffs.

"We just want to see the actual details that got him to 3.75 [percent]," said Ed Bucciero, Board of Estimates and Apportionment and Common Council member.

The budget already hit one snag with Bucciero wanting to wait another week before passing the budget on from the Board of E and A to the council.

As a councilman, Bucciero says he's going to bring every department before the council during talks, "to see if we can find any dollars within their budget that could help us get down to the legal two percent," he said.

It's anyone's guess where they'll decide to make cuts. But it's likely they'll look at the same cost savings the city is.

The city is already trying to save money for the years to come and they're starting with about half a million dollars from the police department. The city is trying to control line-up pay, an overtime charge officers get for showing up 15 minutes early. The city says it totals about $500,000 a year.

But Palmieri was very clear, he doesn't want to see any more public safety cuts.

"So we don't cut them to a point where they are in harm's way and is the public (sic)," he said.

The council has until March 20th to make their decisions.

Mayor Palmieri says he doesn't expect next year's budget to be any better, but he hopes his economic development initiatives improve the situation over time.

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