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Deficit-Plagued Yonkers Talks With Unions to Try and Save Jobs

New York Daily News via YellowBrix

July 01, 2010

YONKERS, NY – With hundreds of pink slips already handed out Wednesday, Yonkers’ mayor, city council and municipal unions were negotiating down to the wire on a bare-bones city budget agreement.

The city faces a $110 million deficit, with a deadline that could be stretched into today, for the start of the new fiscal year.

Talks were “productive and substantive,” Mayor Phil Amicone’s spokesman, David Simpson, said of Wednesday’s negotiations.

Amicone plans to present a set of budget revisions to the council today to close the deficit.

“Hopefully, we can come up with some savings to save as many jobs for residents as possible,” said Simpson.

The budget Amicone plans to present today will propose 134 municipal worker layoffs, and leave another 63 now-vacant job slots unfilled.

Most of those layoffs and vacancies would affect the police, fire and sanitation departments – and would reduce public and safety services.

The cuts already have forced the city to scale back garbage pickups from twice to once a week, with the mayor’s office already receiving calls from angry residents, said Simpson.

To produce some savings, Amicone could increase an already set 4% property tax on Yonkers residents or raise an income tax surcharge, said Simpson, but instead wants to look for savings in police and firefighter union contracts that would cut around $7 million in overtime pay.

“It’s 100% dependent on the unions right now,” said Simpson.

If union workers agree to some flexibility in their contracts, the savings in overtime pay could prevent job layoffs, said Simpson, but there have been no official agreements yet.

The Uniformed Fire Officers Association has made previous concessions with the city, but were not that happy with their outcomes, said UFOA President James Brady.

“We worked with them in the past and we didn’t get the full benefit of it,” said Brady.

If there are no resolutions, fire companies will lose 36 new firefighters, while an additional 28 lieutenants, captains and chiefs would be demoted based on seniority, said Brady.

Others, like probationary firefighter Rocky Fuoco, 23, at Firehouse 13 on Kimball Ave., will wake up today without a job if no further resolutions in the budget are reached.

A group of new firefighters just graduated from the academy in October and thought their jobs were stable enough to settle in Yonkers. Many of them bought houses or co-ops, and some even have kids on the way, said Fuoco.

“It’s unfortunate, we got on this job not too long ago – anxious to serve our city,” he said, “and that ability is being taken away from us.”