PEEKSKILL, N.Y. – Now that Peekskill’s proposed 2013 operating budget has been released, the Common Council is faced with a difficult task: eliminating 40 city positions while doing everything possible to lessen the hardship that layoffs inevitably cause.
Mayor Mary Foster said Peekskill did not add many city staff members in the past five years because they were trying to avoid layoffs, but with Albany dragging its feet on mandate relief and with rising health care and pension costs, cuts had to be made this budget season.
City Manager Brian Havranek’s proposed $51,493,103 budget plan would eliminate 31 full-time positions, seven of which are already vacant, for a savings of approximately $2.8 million. Nine part-time positions would be eliminated for a savings of $164,349.
Fifteen of the targeted positions are administrative, 10 are public safety and six are in the Department of Public Works.
"For the last four years, we have tried to fill the gap with ... no mortgage tax revenues coming in to cover our basic salaries by taking money from our reserves each year," said Foster at a Saturday morning council meeting.
Now layoffs are necessary even though the city’s worker headcount has decreased 10 percent in the past five years through attrition and retirements.
On Saturday, the City Council set about examining the budget – which would carry a tax rate increase of 6 percent, or $12.16 per $1,000 in assessed value – by taking a hard look at budget lines for the police, fire, planning and public works departments, searching for creative ways to cut costs and make up for the reductions in staff.
Suggestions included closing City Hall early so remaining staff would be better able to handle an increased workload; designating two police officers who will only write traffic tickets in order to increase revenues; and for city department heads to look for efficiencies on the administrative side, possibly replacing certain responsibilities with technology.
“We do need to deliver great service and we are going to have a lot of hard discussions about how we get there,” said Foster. “We really hope that we keep our core services well intact.”
The mayor said the city, not the state, will pay the laid-off city workers’ unemployment benefits.
"We know these cuts are extremely difficult because these are not just employees of the city,” she said. “They are people who live here, people who frequent the businesses here.”