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The Saratogian Newsroom blog, complete with thoughts and commentary from our newsroom staff and regular posts on happenings around town.

Friday, October 9

The budget is THE story

In reading all the comments posted on various stories (particularly this one and this one) over the past few days, I noticed quite a few people criticizing me for covering "three-day old news."

I think -- and it's OK if you disagree -- that the 2010 budget is the biggest local story that I have covered in my two years here at the City Desk. I won't apologize for writing about it a lot this week, and I won't apologize about the same thing going forward -- and you can be sure that I will be writing a lot about this budget going forward.

Why do I feel it's such an important story?
1) The city, like many municipalities all over the country, is facing a huge revenue gap. Closing it will be painful -- the result of a historic economic downturn, which is not over.
2) This budget coincides with the still-expired union contracts, leading to a situation in which the city has to try and work with unions to save money, while the unions have little reason to come to the table, knowing full well that the city is looking for substantial give-backs.
3) This budget coincides with a city election, giving political operatives an easy target over which to attack their rivals. Don't like Ken Ivins? It's his fault that there are seven firefighters and seven cops facing unemployment. Don't like Ron Kim? Then it's his fault.

I agree, to a certain extent, with commenters who call the proposed comprehensive budget a political document. By which I mean, if Commissioner Ivins miraculously finds a way to save the bulk of threatened jobs in an eleventh-hour maneuver, we can call that a political move made to give the appearance of saving the day. Say the same for Commissioner Kim. Again, I have to wonder why anyone would want these jobs.

Whether or not there is actually an as-yet undiscovered backdoor that would allow 27 full time city employees to keep their jobs is not something I know now. What I do know is that all five members of the council are pointing to escalating health care costs, mandated by union contracts, as a significant problem, while union reps are saying that there are other ways to save money. So far, though, I haven't heard many concrete suggestions.

Thoughts?

3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

October 9th, 2009

PRESS RELEASE

PBA President Edward M. Lewis,Jr. issued the following for immediate release


The PBA has read with great interest the public statements of Finance Commissioner Kenneth Ivins suggesting that City Unions should agree to long term agreements with no raise, no longevity payments and increased employee contributions for health insurance plans. Our response is simple. If the City has a proposal for an agreement they should make it at the bargaining table. The PBA does not bargain Contracts in the News Media. The PBA contract expired at the end of 2008. We have been trying to get the City to bargain with us since July of 2008. The place to do that is at the bargaining table, not the six o’clock news.

As for the City’s suggestion on higher employee costs for health insurance, that too is a subject that needs to be discussed at the bargaining table. But the Commissioners do not need our permission to change the contribution rates they make for their own health insurance that the City currently provides at no cost to the Commissioners.

As for threats that the City will begin layoffs if the Unions will not make concessions, we say simply that The PBA is proud of the job it’s members do in protecting the citizens of Saratoga Springs. We believe the Citizens expect and deserve a professional, fully functional police department that has enough personnel to provide quality police protection. No one can seriously argue that the City will be just as safe with fewer Police Officers.

October 9, 2009 at 8:36 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a union member they will not renegotiate till the first round of layoffs happen. That is the 27 full time people will be notified by the end of November, they need a 30 day notification, and they will go. The real problem is that if the paid parking plan does not materialize or does not raise the $1.3 million that is budgeted for then there will be a second round of layoffs. Renegotiatition is warranted but unfortunately it probably will not happen till 2010 when the next round of layoffs will take place if the budget is not balanced.

October 10, 2009 at 8:12 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Andrew,most of the citys'unions contracts are being or were being negotiatied it's now time for the unions to give back and they can save the jobs for their brothers,the ball is in their court,lets see if marching in the streets will help their cause or common sense will prevail.

October 10, 2009 at 9:10 AM 

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