GLOVERSVILLE - With a $1.3 million budget gap looming, city officials are examining what personnel changes might be made to help close the gap.
Mayor Dayton King said Jason Fazzio, who works as the assistant to both the part-time city attorney and the mayor, has written himself out of the mayor's budget for 2010. King said Fazzio's work and contributions to the mayor's office have been invaluable, but said he would not be surprised if the position was cut or the office was restructured.
"Due to the political environment [in City Hall], I can see the council cutting that position," King said. "It would be a big loss. [Fazzio] didn't take the [$5,000] stipend that was approved for him and he took a high deductible insurance to save the city money. He volunteers his hours to do extra work."
King's appointment of Fazzio was controversial. King fired a longtime secretary in the position and hired Fazzio, who he said would do less secretarial work and more research and promotion of the city. King's actions drew the ire of some council members, who said that a hiring freeze enacted earlier was not being honored.
King said he does not want to see a secretary in the office to answer phones, but rather someone who will work to promote the city.
"I think [Fazzio] is a huge asset to the city," he said.
Fazzio said he understands the city is facing a huge financial challenge and believes there are many ways to structure the mayor's office. He said he does not believe massive personnel cuts, however, are the answer.
"Some council members talk about cutting every position they can, then cutting the mayor's salary and having just a figurehead," he said. "But there are a lot of different possibilities."
Second Ward Councilman John Castiglione said while he feels Fazzio has been a valuable part of the mayor's office, he is concerned the city simply cannot afford to keep the position.
"He's been a hard worker. I think it's unfortunate that [Fazzio] has taken it upon himself to remove himself from the budget," he said. "I don't know if financially [keeping him] is something we will be able to do."
Castiglione said having someone in the office to greet visitors is important, though, since King is regularly out in the community and not always in his office.
"We have to keep that [office] open as much as possible," he said.
First Ward Councilwoman Robin Wentworth said she would like to see the office returned to its previous structure, with a part-time secretary, a part-time city attorney and a part-time assistant to the attorney. She said having two people in the city attorney's office would eliminate the need for the Common Council to hire outside counsel for issues in which the city attorney has a conflict of interest.
"I don't see the mayor's office as needing a full time person," she said. "I don't think we should be paying another person to be doing what is essentially the mayor's job."
Wentworth said she also does not believe restructuring the city clerk's office is feasible, especially because it would likely require a change in the city charter.
"That office is extremely busy," she said. "There are constantly people coming in and out."
The budget gap, Wentworth said, will be difficult to close. She said some cuts - including personnel such as the animal control officer and other positions - proposed by the council were reversed last year, which may have put the city in a more difficult position.
"Some of these cuts just really can't be avoided when you're talking about this kind of a deficit," she said.
Wentworth said she is not in favor of new fees because she believes it would simply shift the cost burden on taxpayers, not alleviate it. One way of trimming the budget could be to examine the services the city offers, she said.
"We may have to find a way to cut some of the types of services that people could live without," she said. "There are no easy answers."
King said he has proposed a number of ideas for closing the budget gap and it is up to council members to approve or deny them. It is clear there must be big changes, he said, but layoffs are not the answer. He said to make a dent in the deficit, the city would need to layoff at least 20 people who are making more than $50,000 a year.
"Some people are more concerned about politics and saying no than coming up with ideas," he said. "We can't just lay everyone off and cut every service. We can keep cutting back to the point that there's nothing left or we can look forward."
Kayleigh Karutis covers Gloversville news. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org