In a statement released this morning, Mayor Michael Villa submitted four line-item vetoes to changes passed by the Common Council to the proposed 2016-2017 city budget.
Two of the objections were to reductions in lines designed to avoid large payouts to retiring police officers for accumulated vacation and compensatory time off for overtime. Several lines introduced in recent years give officers the option to get paid back for time on a yearly basis, rather than in one lump sum at retirement. Buying out time in the same year that it was earned costs the city less, as hourly rates usually increase over time.
Along with other budget changes passed on May 24, the council reduced the overtime comp buyback line from $40,000 to $35,000 and the vacation buyback line from $20,000 to $10,000. The cuts were agreed on by Police Chief Greg Culick and the council as part of a deal to reinstate funding for the deputy chief position, which had been cut from the mayor’s proposed budget.
Although Villa did not veto the reinstatement of the deputy chief position, he wrote that the buyback lines should be restored “in order to protect the taxpayers and to insure we protect ourselves from growing retirement buyouts.”
Villa wrote, “As responsible leaders we must curtail the growth of accumulated time. I see this as a critical item if left ungoverned. I’m sure you’re aware that time earned in the present that is allowed to be carried over year after year costs taxpayers more money when these earning are paid out at a future date. Reducing these costs now will benefit the city as we move forward.”
Villa also vetoed the council’s reinstatement of a police dispatcher, at a salary of $33,500. Villa had cut the position in his proposed budget, although he said he is in favor of adding more dispatchers in future years. Villa wrote that the funds from this line should be used to restore the two buyback lines, as well as add to the department’s overtime budget.
“With the opening of the [Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook] bridge in late summer as well as having many outdoor events planned, one can assume that the need for additional security will be required,” wrote Villa.
The last veto was to the reduction in salary of the city’s plumber. The council had planned reduce the position to part-time. However when the council voted on their changes officially on May 24, they made an amendment to only reduce the position to 30 hours, leaving the position full time. Villa’s statement included a letter from Engineer Rich Miller, who advocated keeping the position full time.
According to the city’s charter, line item vetoes can be overridden before June 30 by the council by a 4-1 vote.