Ogdensburg city manager defends budget proposal

Published: Nov. 2, 2021 at 6:11 AM EDT
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OGDENSBURG, New York (WWNY) - Ogdensburg city manager Stephen Jellie presented his proposed 2022 budget to councillors at a special meeting Monday night before spending more than an hour defending it.

The council eventually voted 4 to 1 to accept the preliminary budget.

Councillors Dan Skamperle and Mike Powers were not at the meeting.

As for what’s in the budget, Jellie says it would cut the city property tax rate by 10 percent, making it the lowest since 2010.

To help get there, he proposes a 12 percent cut in the city workforce, including seven positions in the police department, three in the fire department, one DPW worker, and one other city staff member.

Jellie says all the positions that would be cut are vacant, so he says no layoffs would be involved.

Skamperle told us earlier in the day the magnitude is shocking for public safety cuts at that level.

Here are samples of Jellie’s address:

“I understand what the staffing levels should look like in a perfect scenario. I understand what the staffing levels would look like if we had more resources. I also am fully aware of the workload that is on our police department and our fire department.

“There is nobody sitting here that wants to see less of these resources. Look at the budget, tell me where we make the cuts.

“If you want more firefighters, you need $140,000 for every one you want to add. Tell me what I’m cutting. If you want more police officers, you need $120,000 for every police officer. Tell me what we’re not going to do. Those are where our choices are.”

That was the general tone as councilors listened to Jellie speak mostly uninterrupted for almost an hour and a half.

He called out the county for “taking our money” when it comes to sales tax collection in the city.

He also defended his use of social media, which was a topic of conversation at the council candidates’ debate last Friday.

Towards the end of Jellie’s speech, councillor Nichole Kennedy, cut in and asked if the city manager was there for a budget meeting, or for “political grandstanding.”

She was the one councillor to vote against the proposed budget, saying she and the public had not had enough time to look at it.

With the preliminary budget accepted, the city council will now parse through Jellie’s proposal before voting on a final budget in the coming weeks.

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