Budget shortfall, belt-tightening & bankruptcy: Ogdensburg faces tough future

City of Ogdensburg
City of Ogdensburg(WWNY)
Published: May. 31, 2023 at 3:43 PM EDT
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OGDENSBURG, New York (WWNY) - Bankruptcy could become a reality for Ogdensburg in the coming years, according to city officials.

“The biggest challenge is the sustainability of the city,” said City Manager Mohideen Buharie.

Next year’s budget shortfall is $1.9 million. Buharie says he’s working to get the city back on track.

“I’m going to reach out to my employees and ask - we have annual increases of about 3.5% annually - I’m going to ask them if they are willing to freeze those increases,” he said.

Buharie also may ask for a discussion with the city firefighters to explore suspending the 5-man minimum requirement for the Ogdensburg Fire Department. That could save $600,000. Buharie adds any such move would be a collective decision taken with concurrence with the Fire Union and the city.

City Councilor Dan Skamperle says the city is playing with fire if it goes that route.

“If he just tries to do it, the same way the last administration tried to do it, all it does is bring about another lawsuit, and right now the way the contract reads, we would save hundreds of thousands of dollars by actually hiring firemen,” said Skamperle.

Mayor Mike Skelly says something has to change. If it doesn’t, Ogdensburg may have to face reality in a few years and declare bankruptcy.

“The New York State Financial Restruction Board (Financial Restructuring Board for Local Governments) said in 2023 that Ogdensburg would no longer be able to pay its bills. We came in as a new administration. Some changes were made and probably we’re just extending it out a few years from that scenario happening. So unless things change, it likely will happen in the future,” said Skelly.

Buharie’s ideas could come up at the next city council meeting on June 12.