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Peekskill Residents Criticize City Manager Budget

City residents and employees crowded into the Common Council chambers Monday to speak about the proposed 2013 budget. Photo Credit: Art Cusano
A summary of the 2013 budget proposed by the city manager was displayed at the meeting. Photo Credit: Art Cusano
The estimated cost per taxpayer, based on the proposed 6 percent tax increase, would be about $12.16 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. Photo Credit: Art Cusano
Economic challenges faced by the city were outlined. Photo Credit: Art Cusano

PEEKSKILL, N.Y. - Acting City Manager Brian Havranek gave a presentation of his proposed 2013 budget Monday, which contains job cuts that drew criticism from some city residents and employees.

The proposed budget would cut 31 employees for a savings of about $2.9 million. Seven of the 31 positions are already vacant. The positions include 15 administrators, 10 public safety employees and six department of public works employees. The proposed budget calls for a tax rate increase of 6 percent, or about $12.16 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

Dozens of city employees attended Monday's meeting, many wearing shirts with the phrase "Not On Our Backs."

Diane Blank, a lifelong resident and longtime employee of the assessor's office, spoke on behalf of city employees about the proposed job cuts, which included her position.

"I've assisted many Peekskill taxpayers over the years, and seniors, to get the exemptions they deserve," Blank said. "Who will help them? Our department consists of two employees: myself and a part-time assessor. You're cutting my job. That's more than 50 percent."

Blank complained that the city had paid for numerous studies and seminars for salaries, space use, Spanish language and human resources, which she called a waste of money. Blank was also concerned about the retirement incentive program she was eligible for, she said.

"The last day to opt in is November 9th. But if I opt in and find out my job is not eliminated, can I opt out?" Blank asked city officials.

Several residents, including some city teens, complained about possible cuts to the staff of the Kiley Youth Center. A staff position may be eliminated in the 2013 budget. The center will stay open but will likely be staffed only by the Peekskill Housing Authority, said Havranek.

"There will be programs at the Kiley Center, no matter what, because the Kiley Center is not owned by the city; it's owned by the housing authority, and there are other concurrent programs going on."

Representatives from Teamsters Local 456 urged council members to reconsider cutting the 24 remaining positions, or services would be affected. White collar representative Nick Longo told Havranek that for 10 days he had been trying to get a written list of positions that the city intends to eliminate and the names that go along with them.

"We haven't been able to get it," Longo said. "It is the most unethical, unprofessional thing that I have ever seen in local government."

Havranek said he had given the positions verbally to the union, but said names were not yet available, due to civil service procedures.

The next budget public hearing is Nov. 26. The Common Council has until Dec. 1 to approve a 2013 budget.

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