The city’s public works department is pushing for a 2 percent spending hike that would pump its annual budget to $13.1 million.
“I can almost assure you that it will come up lower,” Mayor Art Ward.
Two public works commissioners – city Councilor Mike Rimcoski and Morris Laviero – said they’d like to see deeper cuts that would do more to ease the burden on hard-pressed taxpayers.
“I’m a zero man,” Rimcoski said.
“Amen,” said city Councilor Craig Minor, who often clashes with Rimcoski over his refusal to shell out money for necessary government services and initiatives.
Ward said he tossed back the first public works spending plan because it came in a little over 2 percent.
“I couldn’t allow anything to go forward higher than that,” the mayor said.
But at least some officials said they are willing to go to bat to make sure public works gets the money it needs to operate effectively in caring for the city’s streets, municipal buildings, garbage and infrastructure.
“We’ll fight for the 2 percent,” city Councilor Kevin McCauley said.
McCauley said the city has “an aging fleet” of vehicles and some need replacement.
But Laviero said the city has a lot of costly equipment that it barely uses, including a $200,000 grader that’s broken down.
He said costly machines that are rarely used should be rented, not owned.
“That could be a big cut in the budget,” Laviero said.
Given the budget constraints and tight economy, he said, “We’re up against it. We can do without.”
Don Padlo, a longtime commissioner, said that whatever the merits of Laviero’s argument, the budget proposed for this year doesn’t ask for any equipment that isn’t needed immediately.
“We’ve got to have the fleet in decent shape,” Padlo said.
Public Works Director Walter Veselka said it would take $1.6 million annually to keep the fleet on a proper replacement schedule.
This budget has about $900,000 for new equipment.
Laviero said he is nervous about the economy, but sees it as a chance to improve efficiency and management.
“This is a great time to improve our department,” he said. “We just have to run a better ship.”
Veselka said the department is well-managed and that it is busy making improvements already.
“These times are forcing us to look at how we operate,” Ward said.
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