The Plattsburgh Common Council and its finance committee spent most of their meeting Thursday evening discussing options the city has to deal with an estimated $3.1 million decline in the budget due to the coronavirus pandemic. The panel passed a resolution that will impact dozens of city employees.
During the Finance Committee meeting city Chamberlain Richard Marks reported that budget adjustments in the wake of the pandemic are showing that the city currently faces a $3,043,734 shortfall. Budget officer and Ward 2 Democrat Mike Kelly offered councilors a list of employees to be temporarily laid off. At a press conference Friday at City Hall he said the alternative of a nearly 30 percent property tax increase is untenable. “We’re going to find that $3.1 million most likely in staff reductions. I don’t think this is all going to be layoffs. I don’t think we’re going to furlough all the people we need to. I think we turn the information over to our unions. They might want to institute job sharing for example. We might have some early retirements along the way. But in the end we will be looking at nearly 60 positions. Now some of those people have already been sent home because of the coronavirus pandemic and part of task then is just to remove them from the payroll.”
Earlier Friday, the mayor’s office indicated only 35 jobs would be restructured, furloughed or laid-off. Mayor Colin Read explained that of the 61 line-item positions targeted the city only has direct control over 35. “Some work for the library. They’re going to have to figure out what they’d like to do with that. Some of those line items are already vacant and have been vacant for some time. Some they’re on temporary seasonal work. The number of people we actually have to approach and discuss this with is thirty-five: thirty union members and five management members. And for each one of those we’ll see what we can work out or see what the union can work out. So those are literally probably 35 individual discussions that now have to occur.”
On Friday first term Ward 4 Democrat Paul Di Dominicas notified the city clerk that he was resigning from the council effective immediately. While the vote regarding city workers was a factor he says in general he hasn’t been getting all the information to make sound decisions. "The city and the way its run is broken and I don’t think I was effective as a city councilor. I think sometimes you have to understand your strengths and know where you can affect change.” (“Was last night’s deliberations over the job layoffs a factor here?”) “Yeah I think the process as it went down was not okay and tried to slow it down a little bit and you know ultimately there was enormous pressure to vote a certain way. You know getting information like that so quickly before I was supposed to make a decision is just sort of indicative of the problems.”
The council’s finance committee will reassess the budget status and make necessary adjustments during its monthly meetings.