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Dispute over new city budget

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Dispute over new city budget
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Syracuse's mayor and Common Council are at odds, again. This time the dispute is over a new city budget. The council has rejected some of the mayor's spending plan. But, YNN's Bill Carey says that decision will have little impact as the mayor moves to implement her fiscal program.

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- It was the day that Syracuse common councilors got their say on a new city budget. And the lawmakers proceeded to suggest 18 specific changes in spending and revenues in the package.

“These amendments are based on realistic assumptions. And we've made these amendments with prudence. We have all done our homework,” said Kathleen Joy, (D) Syracuse common councilor.

The most controversial cuts proposed by Mayor Stephanie Miner centered on the city's fire department. Her administration wants to close one firehouse and eliminate overtime, cutting department manpower per shift from 69 to 65 firefighters.

The majority leader of the council, Lance Denno, is a former city deputy fire chief.

“Cutting the fire service will reduce public safety, critically impair firefighter safety, and is not necessary. Please, let's not go there,” said Denno.

Other councilors agreed the money should go back in.

“Public safety is the cornerstone of neighborhood integrity in our city. The budget proposed by the mayor infringes on this, and is frankly just a bad idea,” said Patrick Hogan, (D) Syracuse common councilor.

Applause from a packed house of fire union members greeted the council vote. The lawmakers proceeded to approve every additional amendment as well.

Despite a unanimous vote by councilors, changing some of her budget work, the mayor gives no indication of being willing to reach a compromise.

“I'm not sure what the middle ground could be. I guess when there was more money, you could compromise and find middle grounds. But, you know, the council knows what our financial situation is,” said Mayor Stephanie Miner.

The city charter allows the council to set overall spending and revenue estimates, but gives the sole power over what to spend and not spend to the mayor. In the case of the fire department cuts, Miner says there will be no changes.

“We have a disagreement. We can't afford more overtime. And so, I will not be adding additional or spending additional money to keep overtime segments for the fire department,” said Miner.

The councilors continue to say the mayor is making a mistake.

“These proposed cuts cross the line to an unacceptable level of risk,” said Denno.

The new city budget is set to take effect on July 1st. Staffing changes for the fire department could be implemented prior to that date.

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