OGDENSBURG — A resolution to require the city manager to submit a budget that includes a 5 percent reduction in taxes for 2021 was voted down after being met with some sharp criticism from veteran council members.
The resolution read, in part, “Be it further resolved that the city manager’s primary goal shall be to accomplish this critical objective prior to the preparation of the 2021 budget, and be it further resolved that the city manager will accomplish this goal by implementing cost-saving measures and making recommendation to this council to accomplish that goal.”
“First of all, I think we all share the same goal, reduce taxes,” Councilor Daniel E. Skamperle said. “I think this is City Council’s budget, not the city manager’s, and I think it is unfair to throw that on the city manager. The city manager does the legwork and gives us a preliminary budget. Show me the money. Show me were you are going to take off, and I will vote for it.”
A 5 percent reduction amounts to $285,000, City Manager Sarah Purdy said.
“Show me where you are going to take it, and maybe I will vote for it,” Mr. Skamperle said. “I don’t even see a reason to this resolution here. It’s pointless.”
Mayor Jeffery M. Skelly said he would like to reduce taxes but thought council should do the work.
“I want to do the work and reduce the costs as a council,” Mayor Skelly said. “I would like to work together and find the appropriate cuts and then we’ll do this resolution.”
“I think we are just trying to establish a goal,” Councilor William B. Dillabaugh said. “We can’t do it at the end.”
Councilor Michael Powers said the resolution incorrectly placed the responsibility on the city manager.
“She proposes the budget, and we crunch the numbers and do what we can to reduce the tax rate,” he said. “That’s what we’re elected to do.”
The point of the resolution, Councilor Steven M. Fisher said, was to set a goal.
“The city manager will bring us a city budget 10 months from now, which at that point we can then pick it apart, but this gives her direction to get us there,” Mr. Fisher said. “It gives the taxpayers a break. They never get one.”
Councilor John Rishe said the form of government in Ogdensburg is set up so the city manager, a professional, will implement the council’s policies.
“We’re not full-time employees. We’re not managers,” Mr. Rishe said. “We don’t know what is going on with healthcare costs. We don’t know what is going on in detail with every single department. That’s why we turn to a professional.
A 5 percent reduction would only bring the tax rate down $1, Mr. Rishe said.
“That’s not like we are achieving monumental things here,” Mr. Rishe said. “It’s a small step forward.”
Mr. Rishe, Mr. Dillabough and Mr. Fisher voted for the resolution. Mr. Powers, Mr. Skelly, Mr. Skamperle and Councilor Nichole Kennedy voted against the resolution.