The discussion continues regarding the dire financial situation the city of Utica is facing. Monday night, select Utica Common Council Members held their third 'Plain Talk Conversation' to discuss the city's budget with concerned citizens.
The council members Eyewitness News spoke with say it's absolutely necessary that the public become informed on the city's financial situation as we approach the April 1st, when the new budget is set to go into effect. Utica City Councilman Jerome McKinsey Sr. says the city's financial situation is a tough pill to swallow, which is why these public meetings are needed. "I believe that people can accept tough decision and tough cuts if they understand why we have to make these tough decisions."
One of the more controversial topics discussed tonight was the state's 2% tax cap. Mayor Robert Palmieri's proposed budget includes an 18% tax increase, clearly way over Governor Cuomo's imposed cap. Municipalities can override that 2%, but Councilman Frank Vescera says the city has yet to do that, and now, it might be too late. "The city has not followed the necessary procedure to go over that cap. I don't think there's time to go through the override process," says Vescera.
He says the city should do everything it can to stay within that cap. But some people voiced their concerns about staying within that cap.
"What I'm gathering is that a 2% tax increase would require such dramatic cuts in our budget that I'm not confident that you would be palatable to that," says Councilman-at-Large Edward Bucciero.
"With all the cuts that you've been hearing about, that still leaves 18%," says Mckinsey, "just imagine what it would be if we tried to whittle it down to 2%."
"If they need the citizens help, I don't want it to go on forever, but if it needs to be a year or two years then maybe we should buckle down and do what we have to do as a community," says Utica resident Tyra McKinsey.