Personnel costs eyed in budgets

JOHNSTOWN – The Common Council took a preliminary look at proposed departmental budgets Monday at City Hall, and the theme of the two-hour workshop seemed to be personnel issues.

Mayor Sarah Slingerland said Monday’s session was a first look at proposed departmental spending plans, to be followed later this fall by the presentation of her budget, a public hearing, and eventually adoption of the 2014 city budget.

“This is the opportunity for each of the department heads to submit a budget to the council with explanations,” she said.

City Fire Chief Bruce Heberer proposed the city add one firefighter to his department, with a base salary of about $39,000. He said the department currently has 24 firefighters, including himself. He said the department maintains three shifts of six and one shift of five firefighters.

“In the last four years, I’ve been one person short,” Heberer said.

Elsewhere in budget proposals, city Police Chief Mark Gifford told the council his proposed budget carries a 6.5 percent increase.

“A lot of that’s due to the new collective bargaining agreement,” he stated.

The council in July ratified a new contract with its 22-member police union that calls for 2.7 percent average annual pay raises through 2016.

Gifford also said the police department could have two or three possible retirements in 2014, although that’s “not etched in stone.”

Johnstown Public Library Director Erica Wing presented a proposed $385,101 library budget for next year, with the proposed city allocation being $287,000 or about 75 percent.

“It’s an 11 percent [city allocation] increase from 2013,” Wing said. “The biggest thing we’ll target is personnel.”

Wing said the state is increasing the minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $8, starting Jan. 1, and eight of the library’s clerks and pages will be affected by the pay increase.

Michelle Jones, director of the Johnstown Senior Citizens Center, also said her facility’s proposed budget is affected by some personnel proposals. She requested a pay hike from $10.35 per hour for a part-time, 30-hour-per-week custodian.

“I want to try to keep him happy,” Jones said.

Jones also said she wants to increase the pay of the center’s 20-hour-per-week coordinator and secretary positions from $10.60 to $11 per hour.

City Engineer Chandra Cotter requested an extra laborer in the Department of Public Works’ street crew, increasing it from 19 to 20. She also noted that in five years, about four to five DPW employees will be eligible to retire.

“Our city services must be able to accommodate the taxpayers,” Cotter said.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at manich@leaderherald.com.