Ogdensburg’s interim city manager calls spending plan ‘very challenging’
OGDENSBURG, New York (WWNY) - Ogdensburg needs a proposed budget approved by November 15 and there’s a new person at the helm with drastic proposals already on the table put there by the former city manager. What does interim city manager Andrea Smith see in the budget?
7 News anchor Jeff Cole sat down with Smith to find out.
Cole: What we’ve seen so far is a budget with a couple of options and it seems dire. As a new person in the position you’re in now, do you see the same situation, are the finances not that great and tough decisions need to be made?
Smith: I think tough decisions will have to be made. Former manager Stephen Jellie did lay out some dire options. I’m hopeful in conversations with staff that we will be able to present a budget that isn’t as dire.
Cole: One of the options Mr. Jellie presented was to eliminate the police department.
Smith: That is not a proposal that I will put forward. I don’t think that is a proposal that is prudent at this time nor do I think it’s an option the community will be supportive of.
Cole: City leaders in the past have said the firefighter contract isn’t something the city can afford.
Smith: The contract with the firefighters is one of the most lucrative contracts in Ogdensburg. There are challenges with that. I am hopeful that conversations with the department, the union and the new fire chief could be part of an ongoing solution.
Cole: You say that cuts will likely have to happen, you hope it’s not as many. How many could it be?
Smith: The proposal put out there established as many as 27 layoffs. I don’t think that that is palatable nor do I think that that is prudent. There are a few retirements that we can take advantage of. There are vacant positions we may not fill. I really couldn’t say. A lot of that lies in what unions and department heads are willing to bring to the table. I hope that number, and I’m optimistic that number will be far less but the reality is that it won’t be zero.
Cole: And if it’s not a cut in jobs - on the other side - you may have to raise taxes?
Smith: I don’t see us getting through this budget without raising taxes. There will be very difficult discussions with council about what level they would be willing to increase taxes. We’re looking at increases in sewer rate, possibly water rate. We’ve heard from council members in both parties say that there is only so much residents can pay but we have to look at that as an option or we have to go back to looking at 27 layoffs.
Cole: That sounds very challenging.
Smith: It’s very challenging. There’s no doubt about it.
Cole: And not easy
Smith: It’s certainly not going to be easy but I have faith in my colleagues. Ogdensburg has very dedicated employees and dedicated and passionate residents. I am hopeful we will get through this. We will get through this.
Smith plans to call for a special meeting this week for council to talk about the budget. By the way, Smith is on the job for 120 days. She hasn’t applied to be permanent city manager, but isn’t against it either.
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