By JAMES CUMMINGS • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
ONEONTA – The Neahwa Park dog park and new positions in fire and public works departments were among the items in the city’s $20 million 2020 budget, but with a deadline looming Council members decried the lack of time given to addressing the changes.
“This year’s budget is a very aggressive one,” said Mayor Gary Herzig. “We give our Council members more time to discuss parking spaces than we do our budget.”
“It appears that there’s a lot more moving parts with this budget,” said Council member David Rissberger, Third Ward.
“This is the most confusing budget,” said outgoing Council member Melissa Nicosia, Second Ward. “I’m feeling overwhelmed by the information I’m being fed. I don’t want to have to go through this with a fine-toothed comb.”
“It’s a lot of information to process,” said Council member Russ Southard, Sixth Ward.
The $20 million budget, prepared by City Manager George Korthauer, is expected to be finalized in December, but not before a majority agrees to the spending plan.
Among the proposals is a $58,000 dog park in Neahwa Park. The project, which has been considered several times over the last few years, continues to draw mixed reactions from the council.
“Should the needs of the few outweigh the needs of the many for a dog park?” asked outgoing Council member Dana Levinson, Fifth Ward.
“I think $58,000 is a lot to fence off a small part of the park,” added Nicosia.
Others supported the proposal. “I think if we can do something like a dog park for $58,000. After years of not doing anything, I’m in favor,” said Rissberger.
But with only three votes against, the dog park will stay in next year’s budget.
Another proposed expenditure was that of additional city payroll positions such as fire and utilities. “The current budget has a $500,000 increase in payroll…that’s a lot of money,” said Herzig.
“I know we have projects to do, but families have projects to do too,” said Southard.
“If we need to cut things, we need to cut,” said Levinson.
The council will look to Korthauer to reconfigure the budget, making the necessary changes so that it falls under the two percent tax margin.
“We’re asking the city manager to come back with a budget below two percent,” said Herzig.
The council will hold a special meeting in early December to finalize the budget.
“Let’s at the earliest possible time, put out the budget,” said Herzig.