11/01/2010

Budget 2011-Part 1 "Requests"

Posted by MJ

November 1st

Forbes and the National Affairs have interesting articles on national pension deficits and public sector unions respectivlely

The Buffalo News reported on LPD and LFD interactions with the common council.

Passuite said he expects four retirements and is asking for $197,736 in sick and vacation buyouts. "Each of these gentlemen has more than 400 sick days," the fire chief said.


Again: get rid of this allowance to buildup rediculous amounts of sick/vacation time. Pay out yearly to avoid these large one-time payments.

LFD food for thought:
As far as I understand it currently the (4) 12 man platoons (A,B,C,D) cover 12 hour shifts on a 6 day cycle. One week half have a 36 hour week and the next they have a 44 hour week. 48 man total requirement for up to 12 men available at a time.

Idea:
Group the platoons into two (AB and CD) half of platoon would man the station in 12 hour shifts and half would be on call the whole day for events that required additional man power. The following 6-day shift the roles would reverse. Ths would enable up to 12 men being paid to be able to respond to a necessary event at any time while only requiring 32 members total (33% reduction). This is dependent on the number of calls. I would enjoy being on call every other day if I could sleep at home, relax at home,  work on the house, interact with the kids etc if the number of call ins were reasonable. Do statistics show that it is possible to stay home a whole day without being called in?

Let me know if my math is wrong...


October 28th

Aldreman are asking for the ability to "reduce their pay" and the garbage system may be phased in.

Although a nice gesture, I don't see the need for the accounting/law complication of the "set my pay rate". I'd rather see what they are looking to give up donated to park upgrades, replacing our trees etc. The types of positive funding that quickly gets lost in budget cutting.

October 27th

The Buffalo News and LUSJ reported on the budgetary effects of the early retirement buyouts.

Why does the city still allow employees to build up this much unused sick time and holiday pay? It's rare to see a modern day operation that let's someone carry more than 1 week over to the next year and does not buy out the remaining annually.

Reminder:  Budget documents are here. I'll be adding some more today.

October 22nd:

The LUSJ reported on the Building Dept and the lack of resources that have led to a lapse in the "rental housing blitz"
The city’s street-by-street rental housing inspection effort has slowed considerably this year, Chief Building Inspector Jason Dool said this week.
In discussion with Common Council members about his department’s 2011 budget request, Dool disclosed that it has been several months since his three-man team last blitzed a street to arrange inside-outside inspection of all rental properties on it.
Increased numbers of complaint investigations and permit inspections have kept the team tied up, he said. Departure of two staff memebrs since mid-2009 — a full-time housing inspector and veteran chief inspector Jim McCann — leaves the team running to keep up, Dool said.
This is the type of funding that we must make sure is not overally cut. The lack of power to complete the job will only lead to slipping housing values and hold back investment. It is good to see that they have been busy with building permits as they are a barometer of investment. We are one of them.


October 19th:

The Buffalo News reported on the warning against using the fund balance again to help balance the budget.

City Clerk and Budget Director Richard P. Mullaney warned aldermen Monday that the city’s fund balance can’t be used to prevent a tax increase, layoffs or both in the 2011 city budget, because there isn’t enough money available...



...A tax increase can be avoided through “cost avoidance,” Mullaney said. But 82 percent of the general fund budget consists of salaries and employee benefits. That’s where the layoff prospect comes in...
It should be a rather obvious point. I'd envision the fund being used for last-minute or mid-year hold backs from the state etc. Being used to just balance the budget from the start would only seem to delay the painful decisions.

I'm rather surprised by the percentage of taxes that goes to labor (82%). It does appear to be around that of major cities (from a quick web search). Of the 18% that's left, where does it go?

October 14th:

The Buffalo News and the LUSJ are reporting on the doom and gloom of the 2011 budget kickoff.
Mayor Michael W. Tucker said Wednesday that layoffs are possible in the 2011 city budget, while Common Council President Richelle J. Pasceri called her colleagues “cowardly” if they’re not open to a tax increase....


This will be our existance for the foreseeable future: budget after budget of nail biting and gap closing. Hopefully someone in the city gov't will initiate the effort on planning how to turn the slow decline around and increase our chances at future growth. Not just small pieces of it but a complete cohesive plan that we can all rally around. Without it, we're all looking at annual tax increases as the years pass by....

117 comments:

Anonymous said...

Come on Richelle, your the coward just like the years and years of council members before you that didn't have the strength to reign in spending and employee benefits before it got to this point. Lockport is a great City that has a lot to offer, but it's ever increasing property tax burden is self limiting it's growth potential. It's sad when a majority of a person's monthly mortgage payments goes to taxes instead principle and interest. And you wonder why the price of homes in Lockport are far below the regional mean.

Rocketboy said...

The only person who's a coward are the ones who are afraid of the unions.

All I know, is that if my company lost $700,000 dollars one year, I wouldn't be getting a raise.

Hell, I'd be wondering if I still had a job.

Anonymous said...

I love the mayors and richelles newest thought though that they want totally out of the garbage business, so they want to sell 'city garbage bags'! Good luck on that one, is everybody going to have to sit in front of their houses all night and guard that no one throws an illegal bag there?
The only solution is a garbage fee in taxes or water bills where everyone is mandated to pay it. Voluntary compliance of paying a fee will never work.

jaws said...

I was amused by the mayor's quotes as well. How do you get totally out of the garbage business and sell "city garbage bags" sounds like a contradiction to me!

Anonymous said...

Come on Tucker- this will never work. You want to increase a bit of revenue? Start charging all the multi-units their fair share of disposal costs. That would be a good start!

Anonymous said...

Richelle You obviously don't realize that it takes COURAGE to stand up and say that you will work to figure out ways to keep the taxes from increases. It takes a coward to just allow them to increase. We're hurting already!

Anonymous said...

ok, jack and andy, no increased taxes.
so, are you going to be the ones to finally stand up and say the city has shrunk enough and lost enough factories that we don't need a fully manned fire department - that we just need full time paramedics and perhaps fire truck drivers?
thats the only way to balance this budget!

Rocketboy said...

Anon... I would dare say that if you took a poll of property owners in the city, we'd say to keep the paid fire department. It's not like the number of buildings had decreased. Also, if you don't want to live in an area with a paid fire department, there's the Town, just next door.

(And no, this is not an invitation for another Town vs City argument... this is just recognizing that there are differences between the services that the two locations offer.)

Anonymous said...

I think what the mayor means by "being out of the garbage business" is that city workers will no longer be picking up garbage, city taxpayers will no longer need to pay for trucks (expensive, and they need to be replaced every three to four years; Lockport's youngest garbage truck is from 2004). That means a lot, garbage pickup uses a large amount of resources from the Highways and Parks department (not the city's best department), so I would say that stopping all of that and just selling bags local stores is a virtual exit from the garbage business, yes. Saying it is a contradiction is a bit simplistic I think.

As for a mandatory garbage fee, do we really need something that static? The idea behind the garbage bags is buying however many you need to meet your household garbage needs. Therefore, your garbage output determines the amount you pay. A mandatory, universal fee means that a household with four people pays the same amount as a household with eight people, even though the smaller household may have a garbage output of half as much. So the smaller household effectively subsidizes the larger household. Moral of the story: with the garbage bag idea you can actively reduce the amount you pay by reducing the amount you throw out (two garbage bags a week instead of three, for example).

As for the taxes, the jury is out. I think all options need to be on the table to keep the city running smoothly. Saying you will not raise taxes seems like the popular thing to do, lord knows we don't need increases. But again, all options need to be on the table, even the tough ones.

I agree with the opinion that the fire department is too large,and that brings me back to the fact that 82% of the City budget goes to labor. A police officer or fireman in the city generally makes much more than any other city employee, not to mention they get much more overtime.

I never knew about this blog, It's pretty cool and I'll have to check it out more often.

Big changes coming to city hall soon. Everyone who took the early retirement leaves after the 29th, after that a major reorganization is inevitable.

Anonymous said...

No, the mayor specifically said (at least as reported) that he didn't even want to be involved in the billing of fees for collection.
The problem with the bags is that people will cheat and just leave bags around the city. I understand your point, but if it is not a mandated service that everyone pays for then there will be a lot of hassles! The one solution is forcing people to buy the variable sized totes, with different sizes meaning different fees.
The problem with the size of the fire department is I think it is an all or nothing proposition with the exception of leaving only ambulance service and drivers. Minimum staffing requires the amount of fireman we have now. losing 40 fireman, approx a $4M savings I would guess.

MJ said...

I'll have the department budget request documents posted sometime early afternoon. I will also post a spreadsheet comparing city employee numbers in 1980, 1990, and 2009 by dept. The numbers are down 30% in those 30 years although population has not dropped that much, though businesses may have.

As with schools, or even our hoseholds, it's not how much you spend but how you spend it. I think most people are happy to pay for tangible improvements or growth.

Welcome to blog Anon. Spread the word ;)

MJ said...

As per the fire dept, I've always thought of a paid system set up as a hybrid volunteer schedule. The statistics of the number of calls per day would need to be looked at. I could envision a system where only 4 are on actual station duty, and say another 4 are on call to respond. A fireman would be at the station 20 hours a week and on mandatory call and additional 40 hours. Those extra 20 hours would be man power savings. But this would also give the possibility of an actual work week of less than 40 hours to be enjoyed at home or around the city by the employee. If you account overnights, they would actually sleep off some of their hours at home.

I could see some people enjoying this set-up. More time at home instead of at the station plus savings for the city plus a staffed station to get the equipment to the scene right away. I admit that I do not work in the Fire Dept but it sounds plausible on paper. ;)

and as an FYI: The fire dept has been reduced from 71 employees in 1980 to 51 in 2009.

Rocketboy said...

Oh, almost forgot about the homeowners insurance discount as well... without knowing raw numbers, I would guess that it's cheaper to have a paid department when the discount is factored in.

Anonymous said...

Garbage collection is in my taxes as I have not paid any garbage fees up to this point. Now if they start a separate company to collect and have me pay, that is a NEW TAX on us taxpayers hidden under an idea that we did not raise taxes? If I am paying a fee I never paid before then something got raised! So I want that much money back from my taxes to pay the new fee. This is getting so out of hand, we can not keep paying and paying, something has to stop. there has to be a line in the sand per say. Just because you call a dog a cat does not mean it's a cat.

Now people tell me if a new garbage fee is imposed and you always got it collected with your taxes, then is that not a new tax you now have to pay?

Also the newspaper said the garbage budget went from $400,000 to $175,000. WELL FOLKS where did that money go? It's usually paying my trash pickup going now it is not! NO NEW TAX? I think not!

What can we do, I prepose dumping our trash at city hall. Anyone with me? Day one of the new fee? Lets start getting a Tea party going and standing up for ourselves. A huge pile of trash in the police department parking lot with a bunch of signs saying "MIKE here is what we think of your new tax" should grab some attention..and if there is a mob they cant stop all of us. I just do not know any other way any more.

I am sick and tired of just changing the name of a tax and charging a different way. Lies! Just like the 2 tv spot's that has the 2 children in them. The first one has 2 little girls and one gets a plastic horse and the other gets a real one. The first girl says, "I didn't know I could have a real one?." The 2nd tv spot has a little boy on a bike with a circle around him. He can ride the bike but only in the circle. We do know the difference. I for one am so tired of the games and cost of this BS.

City of Lockport Hear this...WE ARE ANGRY AND WE WONT TAKE IT ANY MORE!People Unite here, I love this BLOG. It can unite us together or tear us up. So Lets get together and stop this new tax for starters, then move on to some of the other Garbage they are trying to feed us (pun intended).

Anonymous said...

What are they doing with the money they got from the ticket I and many others get for putting out something to the trash 2 days early. My kids put it out thinking they were helping. I was out of town on business. So the ticket was a surprise to say the least. No WARNING? Just pay or go to Jail. Me, I am guilty for someone else's actions, my 40 year old child. Now to show you how unfair this is..lets just say my child robbed a bank and they put through this new law that I am responsible for him in my home. Well they charge me with bank robbery, but the judge is sympathetic and gives me a dont do it again or both charges will be on you. So next week beyond my control my 40 year old kid does it again. Now i go to jail for both events that were totally beyond my control. How can I be responsible for someone elses actions? How can i control a 40 year old child (or for instance a Landlord and Tenant scene). WELL since I was forced to be guilty for something I have no control over or nothing I myself did, how can i stop someone who may not like me from putting out something when i am away at a vacation next time? I just do not understand how I can be responsible for my older children who rent my house now since i moved to the old peoples building? But on the 3 or 4 offence and after 250.00 I will end up in jail if they do it again? How can I control my children, tenant etc? How can I be held responsible for their actions? I just can not understand it! This money that is paid to the court should be used to pay for the garbage fees since it is being stolden(i mean earned) by garbage. So sick and tired of them taking and taking our hard earned money. This seems fishy to me to charge me for something i didnt do, but what do we do pay it because we can not aford to take off work to go to court. This has to stop some where, wait till its you paying for something you did not do and see how you feel. Thanks for listening. Comments accepted and understood. Money paid out for things I didnt do, is not.

Rocketboy said...

Anon 3:31... It's the law, it's been the law for a LONG time, and the fine goes to the home owner (what is the city going to do, dust the bags for fingerprints?). Garbage left out by the street days before collection is unsanitary at best. Maybe your adult child should act like an adult and pay the fine themselves?

Anon 3:15... Blame the unions. Labor is the number one cost. At one time, public employees got great benefits because the pay was low. Now, pay is higher than the private sector, and benefits are still up. So if you are going to start piling up trash, do it at the union HQ.

MJ said...

Anon 3:15:
We need to keep vigilant, but over the last two years both the mayor, several council members and the recycling committee have mentioned that we the taxpayers will be expecting to see where the funds came out of the budget if a fee based system is instituted. So keep your eye out for spin, but it appears they already know we are looking. (I love those comercials by the way.)

As for the reduction in numbers that you mentioned, I believe they are projected to be less in expectation of the garbage being transfered sometime next year. If it is not, you can pry expect the same $400,000 as last year.

A fee based system will better distribute the cost. Though seeing that the last article mentioned that the RFQs haven't even gone out yet, I don't see how they are going to institute it into this budget cycle. They will either have to budget to keep on collecting as is with maybe a mid-year switch over or just wait another year again when (hopefully) they will have solid numbers.

As for the second Anon's garbage ticket. The ticket is your responsibility as the property owner. The responsibility to pay it is the person renting (your 40 yr old son?). If they do not want to pay it, maybe it's time for a different tenent?

Anonymous said...

As a side note, I don't think tickets for early garbage really add up to any significant revenue in the big scheme of things. It is more of an incentive to keep unnecessary garbage off the streets. I'm sure there's not a vault underneath city hall with millions of dollars from garbage tickets that the mayor swims in every day. Like MJ said, your tenant should be happy to reimburse you, seeing as how it was his fault.

3:15 - please don't dump any trash at city hall, the building is ugly enough. As i said in an above post (10/20/2010 9:28 AM), a user fee (pay-as-you-throw) would be the best option, seeing as how you can actively reduce your fee by reducing the amount you throw out. I agree with the opinion that the totes would be best, bags could get complicated, plus totes are neater (curb appeal).

garbageman said...

ok let me get this right. Your 40 year old son puts garbage out 2 days early and you are mad you get a ticket. Plus you don't realize it's going to cost you "x" dollars for garbage, whether it's in your taxes or a separate fee. Just because it's not in your taxes doesn't mean it's going to disappear, unless they go to the paid bag plan which case people will just dump their unpaid bags everywhere and the city will eventully have to pick them up.
And by the way for those who itemize deductions, it's better if it's part of your taxes as you can deduct it then, if it's a separate fee it's not deductible anymore!

Alderman Jack Smith said...

MJ is correct that the refuse budget is trying to anticipate privatization around June 2011, hence the lower budget number. I personally believe that the privatization should begin Jan 1, 2012 because as was stated the RFPs have not gone out yet therefore we won't know the actual cost. It would be irresponsible to try to budget that unknown when there are enough unknowns such as revenues from sales taxes, etc. that require us to make some educated projections. I have already stated that a user fee of this sort is in my opinion a form of tax and that I fully expect that the budget should show decrease equal to the amount of the program. I would like to encourage everyone to be pro-active concerning this item and the entire budget process by contacting your Alderman and letting him/her know how you feel and what you expect. I am willing to make the difficult decisions necessary to avoid increasing the tax burden and bring fiscal stability back to our City. You can either watch for the spins, or you can make sure they don't occur in the first place by letting your Alderman hear from you.

Anonymous said...

couldn't they contract out some summer help when they are too busy? Hate to hire permanent help when they don't need them year round.

MJ said...

Sounds like an option, similar to contracting out the assessment services.

With the large number of rentals in the city and the the constant complaints about them I can see the need of having a full time Housing
Inspector (contract or not)and not just "summer help" There should be an aim to have a responsive Building Dept to crack down on problem properties and to be responsive and helpful to those trying to invest properly.

The dept was too small with 3 people so we bumped it up two years ago by 2. Two retired and neither were replaced last year due to the budget. Now they are falling behind on something we deem important. I'd condsider the addtion of at least one a need.

Looking at salary numbers, the cheaper route may still be hiring someone in. Based on my electrical inspection we'd be paying someone around 200k a year for full week's work. If we can keep someone busy (and helpful) 40 hours a week, the 35k + benefits a year may be the better path?

Contract employees usually cost more for the employer in exchange for the flexibility of getting rid of them short term. In this case our housing stock is not getting any younger so the need will remain for a long time. I'm not sure what would be gained when looking long term for the department and this one employee.

Anonymous said...

Agreed MJ. But that is the dilemma: how to keep the need for services balanced with the need to avoid budget deficit and increased taxes. It's becoming harder and harder. I can tell you Building Inspection works very hard as a department, that office is always busy with calls, people dropping by, and inspectors in and out throughout the course of the day. But that's the fallout from the budget woes.
I know that the Engineering Department also requested another person and got denied. You don't hear much about that department, but they design and oversee every project in the city (except paving - that's Highways & Parks). Its another very busy department and contains only 3 staff - that includes one secretary.

Budget Budget Budget. I think the city benefits from the early retirement package, it sheds 14 off the payroll, many in administrative positions. But if the city continues to shrink itself, I think we all will suffer as a result.

MJ said...

You are correct, that is the dilemma. It’s not much different from what most of the private sector went through the past two years. You need to control your basic costs but that is only the start. Most businesses at the same time find a way to budget R+D etc so that when the market rebounds they are out in front to grab it and can then restore what makes sense.

With the ease of travel and communication the last half century business etc is no longer slave to a certain location. There is a struggle to obtain real growth (non-sprawl). But with that challenge lays the opportunity to vie for more business. You can see it in other cities. Go to their websites and you see plans for the city, forestry, residential, targeted job growth etc. Here you see the city say “we have historic locks” and the town say “we have new Taco Bells”. Either is hardly a rallying cry but many of us can still see the potential that lies hidden.

I can see the need to make sure departments are as thin as they need to be without hurting ourselves longer term. I see the need to contract out services that we were able to negotiate away from unions and where there is ample competition to bid on it. That should get us to a base functioning during the downturn.

Beyond that I’d want to see investment in projects to lay out our future. Let’s call it our R+D. What are we going to come out of this with? What are we “employees” going to rally around? What will attract outside investment?

I’d hate a 10% tax increase that just kept us minimally floating along because they will be never ending. I’d accept a 20% increase that had 10% to keeping us minimally floating along with another 10% put toward establishing our path to future growth: be them plans (that were to be actually followed), zoning/planning updates, well laid out infrastructure improvements, etc.

There are a lot volunteers who will “do” in this day age. We already see it in our parks with all the people who graciously plant all the flowers. We see it across the area with Re-Tree WNY tree plantings every fall and winter and groups like Buffalo Central Terminal perserving our architectural treasures. We see it across the country with groups who rip out old underused parking lots to those who set up temporary “complete street” projects to prove their worth and kick start dead commercial strips. Give people the equipment and support they need and they will take a stake in their neighborhoods, give plenty of free creativity and the effort to accomplish it. Give us a plan to rally around and we can create a whole better than our parts.

Give us something pointing to the future...

Rocketboy said...

I still like my one-step plan. Break the union stranglehold over labor costs. When we get to the point where someone doesn't file a grievance because the wrong person dared to enter information into a database, the cost of gov't will drastically decrease.

Alderman Jack Smith said...

Amazingly, I was at the budget work session on Wednesday and did not hear the Director of Engineering being told not to hire additional labor. He certainly was questioned whether it was necessary or not, but in the end there was a recommended budget goal set forth with his total discretion on how to achieve it, and he expressed appreciation for that discretion as opposed to the hack and slash performed by the Council. Who better to determine where and what to cut than the Department Heads?

Anonymous said...

Interesting how everyone is talking about reducing the LFD, with less people wouldn't you need less PD to watch all those people? Just a thought. Does anyone know how much the ambulance billing brings in per year, and is that deducted from the the FD budget?

Anonymous said...

No, unfortunately many of the people that are left are the ones that need policing, especially in the 'crime district'!
They other problem is we have lost so many of our factories that both supplied the tax base and required the extremely professional fire department we have.
And, the people that do want to get rid of the LFD think that we should consider paid drivers (like I believe I heard NT does) and the continuation of the ambulance service by the LFD.

Rocketboy said...

Well, people that want to get rid of the LFD should move out to the town. Sorry, I like my fire protection, and I like my insurance discount. I personally know two people who would have had a "major fire" if it was not for the quicker response times that comes with a dedicated professional fire department.

Having a professional fire department, at least for me, is something I look for in a city. I would not want to live in a city without one.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to spoil your party but my ins agent told me fire protection codes are by zip code and guess what, the town is in good old 14094!

Rocketboy said...

Mine is based on distance... doing it by zip code does not seem like a good idea at all, as the city does not have the same protection as the town. Either way, if you don't want to pay for it, move to the town. If you do, move to the city.

Anonymous said...

Do we really want our taxes to decrease or at least remain the same? If so, then where should our elected officials concessions be focused? Examine the numbers, at this point the increases would appear to be in the 15% to 20% increase range. So what is it?

Anonymous said...

Yes, that should be a goal but if it's not possible don't cripple the city trying to reach it.
It is going to take out of the box ideas to cut costs, as there are so many fixed costs.
I do agree that I think the fire department needs to be looked at closely. If we don't go to just a paid driver situation, how about slowly making changes such as not paying anymore ot but instead calling in extra help when actually needed for a fire. It can't be unsafe to drive a short manned truck to a fire until the extra help appears.

Rocketboy said...

If you are going to look at the fire department, the focus should be on keeping overtime down. And to keep overtime down, we need to reduce the number of "me" days that the LFD gets. A hybrid system still (according to national fire guidelines) still has a higher response time.

Alderman Jack Smith said...

Question 1- Should all departments be equally responsible to cut their budgets by a specified percentage, or should those that eat up the largest portions be required to cut more?

Question 2- Should vital services that affect public health and safety be cut if the budget could be balanced by eliminating non-vital services all together?

Question 3- If eliminating non-vital services couldn't balance the budget by themselves, would you still eliminate them before touching vital services?

Anonymous said...

q1 - definitely no. That is the 'chicken' way out of making cuts. So if you have a good manager, why should they have to cut when they are already running barebones? You as an 'executive' have to find cuts, not just say everybody cut's 'x' %.

q2 - Don't understand the question,

q3 - Obviously you don't cut vital services if non-vital can be cut.

MJ said...

-I know for my home owner's insurance a question was if the residence is served by a professional fire department.

-I agree on the "good manager" comment. A blank across the board cut punishes those who are already running a tight ship.

-I'd be happier with the current police numbers (and incremental raises) if they were seen walking the beat from time to time catching all those things you miss when blowing by at 40 mph. It may be the same (or more with raises) money but at least we would be getting added value in return. I can cover 10-12 linear blocks in my 20 minute morning walk. Would this be asking too much a couple times a shift?

Anonymous said...

Can the city afford the concert series? I notice in the police budget there is a line item for OT just for the concerts, on top of the other city costs for the stage. Plus the setup and cleanup are undocumented costs.
Yes, businesses such as Ulrich make a lot of money off the concerts, maybe they should chip in to pay for it.

MJ said...

The concerts are a city event. They are not Ulrich's event. When UCC was built (developmer status given to ulrich) the city required that the parking be open to anyone (it is) and that the parking lot (courtyard?) could be used for special city events (one of which turned out to be the concert series two years later). I know of one shop owner that was ticked on loosing their parking every Friday so not everyone is happily "feasting" of the city's funding of the concert.

The concert promoter is responsible for various tents/beer stands port-a-potties and the clean up after every concert. The city pays for stage rental and police overtime.

I'm happy Taboo is busy. Just as I am happy Molinero's and SubDelicious are busy on concert nights. It was part of the intent. It is a great "commercial" for Lockport. It's been a long long time since there was a "buzz" on Lockport.

The question is how do we show ourselves as a developing area to get these people to return (or live) here other than just for the concerts? We have an audience. What are we doing to get them to listen?

Anonymous said...

Assuming the concert costs somewhere around $100,000 with stage, police ot, and ot time to set up and take down (and I am sure do some cleaning), are they worth approx 2 city employee jobs?

Anonymous said...

Since there is talk about reducing cost for services and how NT does things, here is something they do. Aux. PD you could have them patrol on weekends around the bars etc. and you could reduce a PD car ot Two.

Anonymous said...

I would seriously like to know bottom line how much these concerts actually end up costing TAX-PAYING citizens. I've heard rumors that after all is said and done the costs are closer to $200,000 than $100,000 per year. If that is the case, is this really worth it for us? My personal opinion is no!

Rocketboy said...

Have you been downtown on a Friday during the concerts? Have you seen the out of state cars parked on the sides of the road (Tears for Fears for example)... that's not a good thing to bring people into the downtown area, people who would otherwise not even know there WAS a Lockport? How do you quantify that in dollars? Either way, there is an amount budgeted for it, do your "rumors" have any basis in fact, or are the just baseless rumors?

MJ said...

Last year stage rental was 79k plus 27k in police overtime (which is around 3k per show) gives the city about a 106k tab.

Assuming a low estimate of 20k residents that's $5.30 each a year per resident. Assuming 4 people to a household that's $21.00 per houshold cost. The household can make that money back by one member going to one show (the Cult is coming to the town Ballroom this month for $32/ticket).

Assuming 10k concert goers attend a show that's $1.17 per person direct marketing that actually gets the person on-site. That is without mentioning the countless radio and print adds that run through the summer which mention Lockport. As I said above, we have some great exposure now throughout the summer. What will we do with it?

Either way we have a contract to host them for the next 3 years. Stay tuned for Budget 2014.

MJ said...

I can't help but to have Timex Social Club in my head now ;)

Anonymous said...

I realize that we have differring opinions on the concert series but I've actually heard out-of-town people walking around bashing our city and calling it a "hole-in-the wall" and to be careful because of the nearby neighborhoods being unsafe, etc. Many just come for their freebee fest and leave. Just because a concert may draw people from other areas, doesn't mean we are really benefiting financially. If anything it gives me the tendency to feel "used".

Anonymous said...

So are the concerts worth putting 2 city employees out of work?

MJ said...

You don't have to find out of towners to say those things. There are enough of them already living here propagating those thoughts.

You also can't blame outsiders from being un (mis) informed. The crime stats (or lack thereof) from the series tell the true story. And yes, Lockport does have an urban renewal ravaged DT and neglected housing next to it. Welcome to almost any-city USA.

As I said above, it's our responsibility to show change/inform/show the positive/etc to those who attend every year. Where are our plans for growth and positive change? Will they come to concerts seeing new stores, rehabbed houses, new trees, lofts in the harrrison building, etc or will they see the same old same old year after year?

And to last Annon: which two employees? What do they do?

Rocketboy said...

I'm really not upset about Townies bashing the city. It always just reminds me of the Smug Alert episode of South Park. The town is just paradise and totally crime free, but if you move one foot over, all the sudden it's slumworld. It just does not make sense to me.

MJ said...

I think it's just a logical extension of our object based comsumerism complete with everything being disposable. It's not just electronics, it's homes and entire neighborhoods. It's easier to buy something (somewhere) new than to dig in and fix something. Even if you have to subsidize the mess left behind with taxes you know you were "smart" enough to get out. You then spend the rest of your time trying to recreate everything in your new 2500sqft+ abode because there is nothing else to experience nearby. You then lock your kids inside the compound because there are no eyes on the streets to look after them.

It's a shame that most cities tried to decentralize everything the same way (or had it subsidized out of them). Luckily recent realty firm research etc is coming out that shows the current generation of "wired" kids are looking for denser places to rent and consume experiences as opposed to purchasing in sprawl and consuming goods. Wiser places with the dense infrastructure in place will be ahead in this curve attracting them.

Chances are anywhere in upstate NY will only go along kicking and screaming from behind the curve while struggling to meet bare bones budgets from loss of population.

Jason Walling said...

Sorry....just jumping into this one. Does anyone have any figures on how many working fires the City of Lockport responded to in the past year? I think splitting the ambulance and fire department would be a good move. I imagine the ambulance would be fairly self-sufficent since they charge for their services already, much the same way rural metro or twin cities operates. Perhaps the new ambulance company could expand to cover the town as well for more income. Taking the ambulance calls away from the LFD would give us a clearer scope of how many "fire calls" the department actually gets. From here I believe the hybrid system talked about above should be looked at. I think a volunteer based system would work great in the city, especially seeing as we have a dedicated police department which has amazing response times and could assist in first response, seeing as they are trained for that in their academy already. I think then something to look at would be combining the volunteer force of the town with the newly developed volunteer force of the city. I don't have statistics obviously, but I would imagine it's not too often there are large, out of control fires in both the city and town simultaneously. Setting up one large volunteer based department with strategic substations placed throughout the city and town could get rid of the reduncy of equipment and personnel the city and town possesses in such close proximity to one another. Is there really a need for two 100ft aerial ladder trucks in a 50 sq mile area where the tallest building is 11 stories?

Anonymous said...

I think you bring up some good points Jason. I think our Fire Department does a great job and it's nothing personal against the department itself but we just can't afford it anymore. We have to figure out ways to save our city and it's declining population. No one wants to pay more taxes-I should say most people that still work in the private sector don't. For the most part we're the ones who haven't seen any increase in salary and continue to have to pay out more and more... and btw my insurance agent also confirmed that my annual hazard insurance premium is not based on having a paid fire department as opposed to a volunteer.

Anonymous said...

I could be wrong but I don't think the typical house hunter in the City of Lockport goes out of their way to find a home here because there is a professional fire department as a opposed to a volunteer one. I think the primary reason is because the houses are affordable and there's a lot of potential with the canal and the history here. Unfortunately with the deteriorated housing stock, high taxes, water bills, etc. it doesn't always attract the right people anymore.

MJ said...

In a denser urban environment I do prefer a manned fire department. I do think that a full platoon manning the station is a waste but I would love to see some LFD statistics. There should be a more effective way to have a professional force on call with a smaller number manning the station and bringing the equipment.

Looking at the staffing numbers in the other post the LFD has dropped from 71 to 51 since 1980. (The LPD dropped from 54 to 52.) Contraction has occured in the LFD though these two line items are still the major expenses.

You are correct there is potential. Even with the older houses in need of TLC. It can be an opportunity to attract dedicated people who will help rebuild. Or it could be the standard recipe of gradual slide until all we are left with is an urban prarie.

I've always been pleasantly surprised how much of the housing stock is still intact. There aren't all that many vacant lots near DT. This lends itself to a grass roots rebirth if the city were to do things to attract the type of people willing to do it.

A lot of these budget issues are because we are not adding taxable value to the city. Cuts will not change this secenario unless simultaneous resources are directed toward making this a place where investment is rewarded.

Anonymous said...

and imho the reason for a paid, professional force is/was our industrial base. When HRD was paying all the city bills it made sense to have the great backup in case of emergencies. Yes, the force has gone from 80 to 50, but HRD has gone from what, 10,000 to 1,000 employees (numbers I heard, might not be true).

Rocketboy said...

When you have many, many houses that are a car width apart from each other, the faster response time of a full-time professional fire department is critical.

Anonymous said...

yes, for the 3 house fires a year we have! lol

this discussion probably doesn't matter anyways, what is the status of the firemans contract? Wasn't a new one agreed to last year? If their contract is up, yes it's time for major changes.

Anonymous said...

I don't agree with you Rocketboy. I lived in other towns and neighborhoods with the same density of houses and they faired well with a volunteer departments.

Rocketboy said...

Here's something I posted a while ago on another blog... some of the links may no longer be valid...

---begin---
It's not just my random assertion that volunteer fire departments have longer response time. As a matter of fact, the NFPA's OWN GUIDELINES state that the goal for a department that is over 80% full time / professional is to have response times to be six minutes or under (NFPA 1710). Anything below 80% full timers, the expectation falls to a goal of ten minutes (NFPA 1720). Just short of double.

The difference between 6 and 10 minutes determines how you treat the fire. At six minutes, you can still save some of the house and get some people out alive. At ten, you're just trying to keep the house next to it from burning down as you call the coroner.
(http://www.firebureau.com/?p=50)

According to the ISO FSRF (Fire Suppression Rating Schedule), 15% (it's second highest weighted single category behind only availability of water) is personnel.

Where it states "For personnel not normally in the fire station (for example, volunteers), ISO reduces the value of the responding members to reflect the delay due to decision, communication, or assembly."

http://www.isomitigation.com/ppc/2000/ppc2007.html

Do houses explode into flames every day? No, of course not. But if mine, or my neighbors ever does, in a neighborhood where between some houses there's not even room for a driveway, you better believe I want the best response times possible.

-------end---------

So again, I'm not making things up when I say the response time for a professional fire department is greater than a volunteer one.


Also, I work and live within earshot of the fire department...

I hear them a hell of a lot more often than 3 times a year. Just because it wasn't interesting enough to make it to the paper, doesn't mean that it wasn't an important job. Again, when a fire department does good, you almost never hear about it. I find it hard to believe that you honestly think that there are only 3 fires, or even better, 3 response calls a year. That sounds more like a slow week to me.

or...

you can always go live in the town...

Anonymous said...

and there's the problem!

Anonymous said...

Everyone keeps talking about NT as a model to restrcture the FD, if you look at NT's FD budget it is higher than LFD and they ALWAYS USE TONAWANDA FD another paid professional and equally trained dept. as mutual aid. so all of you can say NT does it why can't we you need to look at the whole picture. If my house is on fire I like knowing that the people showing up have the ability to do something, I wouldn't like seeing 2-3 50-60year old guys get out of a fire truck unable to go inside or a chief to show up in his own vehicle just to get a front seat to the demise of my life. And LFD responds to over 3000 calls a year the local volunteer depts answer approx. 1000 and they can't get people to respond to that many calls good luck getting vol. to respond to over 3000.

Anonymous said...

A few things -
-Without even looking at facts I am sure those 3000 calls are primarily paramedic calls, and everyone is saying on this to keep the ambulance service.
-Thats a real slam on the local volunteers to talk about the 50-60 year old volunteers not being able to do the job. You are probably a city fireman or related to one. The volunteers would do a perfectly good job in the city if they were smart enough to go with it.
-If the facts are right that NT just has paid drivers tell me how they could have a higher budget than Lockport's 50 man force.
-Now go back to sleep on your 12 hours shift so you can work your second job tomorrow!

Anonymous said...

I couldn't find up to date NT info but their 2006 budget number was $2.6 million where Lockports 2006 number was $3.5 million, only a $1,000,000 difference!
The $2.6 figure still seems high if they are only using paid drivers though.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget to reduce the $$$ gained by the ambulance and I bet the budget is pretty close. I think that the 50-60 yr old comment was in reference that during the daytime and a weekday you could get a couple of retires and that's it, it isn't a perfect system but it could happen.

Anonymous said...

Why wouldn't you think NT's budget would be affected the same as Lockport's in regards to ambulance fee's?

Anonymous said...

Twin City transports NTFD only responds as first responders nothing to bill.

Anonymous said...

I think a big misconception here is that a volunteer force would be free. Not the case. Although cheaper than all paid "volunteers" get a retirement as well as other perks such as paid tuition and property tax breaks. The individual volunteer companies also don't report their spending to the state comptroller so no one really knows what they spend. I do know that there are an awful lot of new volunteer fire stations going up and a large duplication of equipment between fire companies. Many other areas of the country have paid county wide fire service and it seems to work excellent. Everyone gets sufficient fire protection and the service as a whole is better managed.

Anonymous said...

Structure fire in the city this morning.

Anonymous said...

The average response time by the Lockport Fire Department to any emergency is 2.7 minutes.

The Lockport Fire Department responds to 100+ fire calls in any given year (false alarms, car fires and grass/refuse fires are NOT included in that figure).

The public does not hear about these fires because the Lockport Fire Department is there fast enough to put them out before they turn into headlines. The public only hears about the fires that are newsworthy.

In one of those fires two years ago little girl was saved.

South Lockport Fire Company and Rapids Fire Company do not meet the National Fire Protection Agency maximum safe response time. 6 minutes or less is considered a safe on time response.

Anonymous said...

Volunteers are free?? guess again.

In the Town of Lockport you pay a Fire District tax of $1.14 per thousand, not to mention the various fundraising amounts that some town residents fund. If the average town assessment is $100,000 you pay $114 per year. You also have to factor in the higher ISO fire insurance rating premium. City of Lockport taxpayers pay a significant amount less on their property insurance because of a low ISO rating. The ISO rating is low because of the paid Lockport Fire Department.
As an example, an average town resident or business pays a much higher premium for insurance than City residents, so add that to the $114 you pay for the fire district tax. You are now paying close to $250 a year in the town compared to the average City of Lockport taxpayer who pays roughly $275 in taxes a year for a paid fire department.
Also adding to the cost burden of these “free” services is the recruitment and retention incentives for volunteers. Volunteers also enjoy a length of service pension funded by the taxpayers.

http://www.iso.com/Research-and-Analyses/Studies-and-Whitepapers/ISO-s-PPC-Program.html

Jason Walling said...

Rocketboy...I love your attitude-if you don't like a paid fire department, move to the town. Why not make that our community slogan? "Don't like the crime? Move to amherst." Or how about "Don't like the lack of jobs? Move to North Carolina." That's not the attitude that's going to solve the problems Lockport has. That's only going to continue to drive people away. I was in an "accident" last winter at an all way stop. It was a minor bump that didn't even trade paint. Soon after, two fire engines, an ambulance, and two police cars showed up. Part of me was waiting for Mercy Flight to land. Was it reassuring to me that this kind of response was available had I been in a real accident? Sure it was. But that assurance was upstaged by my tendency to quickly add up the tax dollars that were wasted on this love tap at an all way stop. I would like to challenge the "100 structure fires a year" statistic. I think this is bogus. I read the paper daily as well as listen to a scanner frequently. 100 structure fires would be one every 3 and a half days. I would like to know how many "working fires" there are annually. By working fire I mean a hose was hooked up to a fire hydrant.

I by no means think our fire department is subpar. I would have to assume it's one of the best in the area. I simply feel it's overkill.

As a side note...I checked my insurance policy, and there is no discount for living in a paid fire department district. I would be curious to know the insurance company you guys are getting the discount from. I might want to switch.

Rocketboy said...

Jason... So, it's bad to point out that there's choice, and you can pick and choose what services you want based on where you live? Hell, that's the great thing about this country, that (for the most part), if you don't like the way one part of it is ran, there's another part of it not too far away that you may like better. The "problem" is that what some people identify as a "problem" is the exact opposite of a "problem" to others. To me, a good response time is worth paying for. To others, it's a "problem".

MJ said...

I'm not of the "if you don't like it move" stance. Well at least for most things. If you want large swaths of asphalt and the necessity to drive everywhere, well then move to the town ;) Otherwise discussion is good. Most of the time it ends up where nither side started.

I guess the main point here is "where is the sweet spot". I beleive a professional service is very adventageous in a dense area. We could double the LFD and have even better response but is it worth the money? We say we want a service now what is the best way to provide it? If looked into enough there should be a way to impliment a paid force where everyone does not need to be forced to be in the station.

I'll update the post above for the LPD/LFD article today.

Anonymous said...

Jason, there are close to 100 fires and not all get water applied due to the fact that a 2.7min respose time keeps the fire spread(if any) at a minimum a simple CO2 or Dry Chem extinguisher does wonders. The newspaper will only report a BIG fire that allows them to get good photos because we all know the writers for the local paper can never get the facts correct and a picture is worth 1000 words and picyures sell papers, what good is a picture of the outside of a house that has no visible damage outside a just a couple of burnt cabinets.If you want to look up fire spread statics you can go to NIST or USFA or even better You tube has some great mock room and content fires and remember 2.7 minutes and 6+minutes.

Anonymous said...

The theoretical schedule works on paper but answer this, if your house is on fire and 4people show up to stand around for 5+ minutes waiting for the call-ins to show up your small fire is now a poss an entire floor or more. If its windy maybe your neighbors house as well. If you want to have call-ins why not have LPD get take home cars and they can be on-call as well.

Rocketboy said...

MJ... Why I take the if you don't like it, there's a town attached to the city that you may like better, due to the nature of the argument, and the convictions of people on either side of the fence. When it becomes an either-or discussion, you don't have too many more options. If we want to talk about cost savings, doing what we can to reduce overtime and abuse of sick time (sorry, but a 'me' day is abuse of sick time... you're paid to do a job that you are expected to do, regardless if you 'feel like it' or not) is a great place to start. Moving to a volunteer department is a non-starter with me, and if I was the type to budge on such a thing, I would have looked outside of the city when I bought my house.

MJ said...

Some thoughts back:

RB: I agree. There should be a solution between a full staffing and a full volunteer. I strongly feel people should be paid for taking the risk of fighting fires. I feel there should be a dedicated number to being by the equipment at the ready. The questions is how do we acheive the best balance of response time/safety/cost/etc?


If it is a small kitchen cabinet fire or something that can be put out by a couple fire extinguishers why would 4 firefighters have to wait for all 8 more to show up to put it out? Those 4 would still be there to access the situation and knock down the small ones.

With average 100 fires (including non-water applied)- that's one every three-and-one-half days. As per my thought in the post there would be guys that would never have to respond to work on days of their "on-call" hours. Bonus paid days "off" for being avaiable but not necessarily used for more hours. I think it could be a valid bargaining point.

Maybe that number gets slowly achieved over time with retirements. There would be 4 this year alone. With last year's tab of 3.6M, 33% savings would be 1.2M. What could be strategicly done with 1.2M a year? This number will only grow with inflation.

The LPD is slightly different or should be. The officers should be completing preventive actions (like walking the beat) when they are not participating in reactive measures (responding to a call.)

In order to further the conversation we would need to know (among other things):
-What are the range of typical calls?
-What is each member's duty during that type of call?
-How many of the calls need 9 (minimum) to 12 figher fighters on scene?
-What types of calls are responded to (like light traffic accidents) that may not require LFD at all (or at least a whole platoon)?
What equipment is out there that allows for less manpower?

Anonymous said...

Dear City of Lockport Fire Dept.,

Please let the fires you respond to burn for a while and get out of control so you can make Jason happy. Don't respond to accidents as quickly either, wait to make sure it is a real accident, maybe send a scout car to be sure. If someone is bleeding to death or has a compromised airway, what's a couple
extra minutes to save taxpayer dollars?

MJ said...

Per testimony regarding NFPA (Nation Fire Protection Agency) Standard 1170:

"...That guidance is consistent with the requirements of NFPA 1710 that firefighters respond within four minutes, 90% of the time. However, arriving on scene in time isn't enough if you arrive without the necessary resources to make a difference.

NFPA Standards 1710 and 1720 define safe and effective response to structure fires in the 21st century. Both standards are developed through the voluntary consensus process, a process that Congress mandated for standards used by federal agencies, with the enactment of the National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act of 1995. All NFPA standards developed through this process are accredited by the American National Standards Institute...

...When fewer than four firefighters are on scene, first responders face a cruel choice between initiating an interior attack without proper manpower to secure their own safety during high risk operations, OR delay the interior fire attack until additional forces arrive.Obviously, the latter increases the danger to occupants and overall damage to the property. Both NFPA 1500, Standard on Fire Service Occupational Safety and Health, and Federal OSHA regulations require a minimum of two firefighters to back up an initial team of at least two firefighters working in a hazardous environment. This is often referred to as the "two-in-and-two-out rule"."

It appears like a staffing of 4 to respond would meet national guidlines as the other 5-8 were responing to the scene?

MJ said...

The UrL:
http://www.nfpa.org/itemDetail.asp?categoryID=651&itemID=18999&URL=Safety%20Information/For%20consumers/Emergency%20preparedness/Homeland%20Security/NFPA%20resources/Testimony&cookie%5Ftest=1

Last Anon:
One could go the extreme and say staff each block with it's own fire fighting crew. This conversation is not about extremes but a plausible solution for a shrinking city of 20,000.

Anonymous said...

MJ, negative you also need a dedicated incident commander ie. Asst Chief/Capt. outside at all times so you can't count that person. Also if you are using water the pump operator can't be used. The two out are dedicated to do nothing except rescue or a job to facilitate rescue ie throwing ladders etc.

Anonymous said...

I love this argument! It is always the same! The firefighters vs. the guys who could not pass the test! Keep it up boys!

Anonymous said...

I love it too - it's the firefighters fighting to keep their jobs vs. the taxpayers who can't afford the 'cadillac' service anymore!

and there is no way that a volunteer force would cost even close to the $4,000,000 budgeted for the aid full force.

Many people think -
keep a full time ambulance service
keep paid drivers

and it sounds like only rocketboy get's a discount for insurnce, no one else seems to have a different rate for paid vs. volunteers.

Anonymous said...

but, one question wasn't answered - whats the status of the firefighters contract? if it' not up right now this is all a moot arguement. were stuck with the cost.

Rocketboy said...

I assure you, I have no connections to the fire department, besides requiring their service once myself, and knowing two people that would have lost their house if we had standard volunteer response times. Also, MJ also stated that he received a discount. If you are not, I would look around for a new insurance company.

Jason Walling said...

Yes Fire Department...please let all structure fires in the City of Lockport burn wildly out of control before tending to them. That's exactly what my post was saying.

Actually the point I was proving was that when I called 911 to report the fender bender, I distinctly said there were no injuries and there doesn't appear to be damage to either car involved. Still...5 emergency response vehicles showed up. Had I been in the town, one sheriff would have shown up and taken the report.

Rocketboy, in a previous discussion we had on another topic, you didn't approve of the city allowing a not-for-profit to come in and request zoning variances. What was the point of arguing your opinion on that? You didn't like it. Why didn't you just move?

I would also like to say that our average response time of 2 and a half minutes to a call is completely fabricated. The average is significantly lowered because they are allowed to figure in all the ambulance calls to the Urban Towers, which is 1 block away from the department. A LP firefighter told me that himself. Actually, according to the statistics you are referring to, which were all comprised before 2002, 9 years ago: North Tonawanda's hybrid volunteer system actually tied Lockport for percentage of responses under 6 minutes. And they answered 182 more calls than LPD's fully paid department did. NT is also more densely populated, has 10,000 more in population, and 2 more square miles than LP does. NT's 2010 budget was 3.5 million. Does anyone know LP's 2010 budget?

MJ is on the right track with the on call firefighters. I realize that firefighters will have downtime, that is obviously part of the job. But 3 and a half days of down time for every fire, most of which can be put out with a fire extinguisher according to an anonymous post above. It just seems as though a new system that doesn't require that large of a crew at the station 24 hours a day could be looked at. And yes...when they are on call waiting for a fire, why couldn't they be doing something productive, like walking a beat.

I'm still waiting on the name of that insurance company that's going to save me all that money because I live in the city of Lockport.

Rocketboy said...

Jason... Good point.. and you know what? If the HV area goes the way that I believe that it would, yes, I will be looking outside of the city for my next house.

Hell, if it wasn't for family ties, I'd be looking out of state.

But, a service that a city (or town) provides is QUITE a bit different than the comparison that you are trying to draw.

In addition if you are waiting for me to talk about who I have financial agreements with, you'll be waiting a long time.

But also, let's ignore my call to reel in overtime and sick time costs, because, well, then you may have to admit that someone else had an opinion that you listened to.

Jason Walling said...

I would also like to add that the folks that are arguing that volunteer based companies are not free are absolutely right. The direct labor costs are technically free, but yes the town offers a modest pension to those who volunteer for a set number of years. You are also forgetting that these volunteers aren't fighting fires with their own trucks and ladders. There are still equipment costs, building costs, etc involved. The goal is to significantly reduce the fire department's budget, not eliminate it. Even if we could reduce it by $1 million or $500k, wouldn't that be a great step in the right direction? If we reduced it even by $400k wouldn't that exactly offset the refuse collection budget which folks were arguing about earlier in this thread?

One more thought...since a great deal of housing inspection points are geared towards fire safety, couldn't we cross train a couple of fire fighters to do inspections when they aren't on a call? The position of "building inspector" doesn't require any formal prerequisite training, meaning they are simply trained by a senior inspector. It would seem logical since we have an abundance of able bodied employees holding that bench down out behind city hall, that we could utilize them and make them productive when they are earning a paycheck.

Jason Walling said...

Mr. Rocket, no one is ignoring your comment. I actually agree with it, however I don't think it completely solves the problem. The problem is our fire department is overkill. I truly believe if union didn't have it by the balls, it would make drastic changes and reductions and get creative with how it utilizes its paid force.

I would go on to call B.S. on your insurance discount, but I don't want to be accused of being uncivil. To be quite honest, YOUR posts are the ones growing uncivil. Everyone else is just having a discussion.

Anonymous said...

I believe the budget for the LFD is $3.7 Mil. When the ambulance revenue is taken off of that it is around $3.1 Mil. Also When you call a ambulance in the city you get a paramedic, not an EMT basic. Although the town uses Rural Metro for paramedic service but they are not dedicated to the town and are not available much of the time. I think it could be beneficial to both the town and the city to agree on some type of shared service, especially for ambulance calls where you sometimes will wait 15 minutes for an ambulance to show up...which was the case with a family friend who lives on the town.

MJ said...

Even if you add one commander to each shift
(take away one on call) that's still 34 employees instead of 48 plus 3 commanding we have now. I haven't had time to go through all of NFPA 1710 yet bu tit is interesting to see what the national voluntary standards are.

One contract was just signed. But we must realize that major changes are not bargained for overnight. It would most likely take years to sort out, do trial runs, etc. To wait for the next contract to initiate the process would be foolish.

I believe a good portion of us are here due to family ties in the WNY area. I don't see it as a reason to not have pride in where we live, understand our hstory and do what we can to leave it a better place someday, be it sooner or later. It's just nice to have these conversations. A diologue always needs to be the start.

Anonymous said...

The fire dept budget is $4,373,000 with an estimated revenue of $553,000.
I wonder if the city ever does get the revenues that are estimated by the dept though?

Also, great idea to turn the firefighters in to building inspectors while not on ambulance duty.

Anonymous said...

$4,373,000 is the requested budget for 2011 not what it actually will be. Department heads put in requests and then the number is trimmed by the council. If you look at the budget requests that MJ posted, that figure is a preliminary number. The budget for 2010 was $3.76 M.

Jason Walling said...

So to recap...Our budget is $3.76 million and NT's is $3.5 million. They answer 182 more calls than Lockport does annually, they cover an area larger than Lockport that is more densely populated, and they tied Lockport for percentage of response times under 6 minutes. And they did all that with $260,000 less than Lockport did. They have figured out an efficient and effective way to do more with less. This should be raising eyebrows in city hall. I don't claim to be a fire department expert, but after several simple google searches on statistics, it is apparent that there is the potential to save the city a lot of money without losing the department's response time. As MJ said, this is something that should be sorted out now....long before it's time to renew contracts.

Anonymous said...

From what I can see on the internet, besides the city size difference their budget supports SIX firehouses and I am sure many more [pices of equipment then Lockport has.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget that NT also utilizes The City of Tonawanda to reduce their overall manpower shortage thus saving $$, here is a typical fire response all of NT and All of the City of Tonawanda and it is recriporicated both ways.

Anonymous said...

and i am sure the town volunteer's would help here too if the city had volunteers -

Jason Walling said...

Not to jump around, but going back up the thread a bit to the garbage talk...I have a relative in Virginia whose city recently went to a privatized refuse collection system. They use the "purchased" garbage bags from the refuse company and it seems to work quite well. What they also offer, free of charge, is a refuse drop off. There is a designated location where there are recycling containers and garbage dumpsters. Residents may take their garbage there free of charge in lieu of purchasing bags and putting them at the curb. If given the option, I believe I would utilize the drop off. I could save money and in addition garbage wouldn't be sitting around on my property all week. I could take it as I accumulated it, maybe every 3 or 4 days. I think this could be a viable option for the city. We definitely have the ability and space to setup a drop off down at the city garage. I think with recycling containers available right next to the garbage dumpster people would utilize them on their own. And then for the people who do not wish to haul their garbage down to the containers, a system with purchased bags would be implemented. As far as who takes care of the dumpster at the drop off, the company who wins the bid on the garbage collection would be responsible for emptying it.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately our city has an overabundance of rental properties that take full advantage of our garbage service (more than you even realize!) and can barely keep garbage in bags. I personally hope to see something more equitable in these instances. Containers keep things neat and hidden. Anything that is outside of that could end up in potential fines for not keeping refuse contained.

MJ said...

Also take into account that a good portion of those rentals are on the lower end of the assessment scale.

Pretty much any market where you are required to pay the true costs will best control things (shortages) and reduce waste.

We don't pay a flat fee based on assessment for food. If the side effect of it is shoplifting, we prosecute those that do so. No different here. Charge everyone for the trash they generate. Prosecute any that illegally dump.

I think this is the 100th comment. I'll start a new post if anything big changes after this week's council meeting or after next week's public comment session on the budget. I'll link back to heat for continuity.

Jason Walling said...

Anonymous, you're right - there are some rental property owners that take full advantage of the garbage service. I wouldn't neccessarily say it's all rental properties though. For instance I own a 2 unit house on pound street with a single woman living in the upstairs and a single woman living in the downstairs. Their garbage output is obviously much less than the average single family home. At the same time there are single family dwellings with families of 6 living in them, discarding much more than the average home each week.

Also, there are certain fees and taxes that are not favorable to multiple dwelling homes. For instance, Lockportians pay a flat rate for the sewer pipe coming out of their home. (approx. $27 a month) In a two unit house there are traditionally two water meters but only one sewer pipe. I actually have to pay that sewer fee twice, because the city charges per meter, not per sewer pipe, even though the sewer pipe is what the fee is for.

It is my understanding that mutliple unit dwellings which have more than 3 units are required to provide there own method of garbage disposal. These apartment buildings do not get a discount on their taxes even though they are paying for a service they aren't allowed to utilize. It is definitely not a perfected system. 2 and 3 unit houses definitely make out the best in refuse collection. What they gain in that respect though, they potentially lose someone where else (like the sewer bill)

Anonymous said...

Well here is an example of the problem: A few years back I was getting really disgusted with the rental properties in my neighborhood and the crime, garbage problems, etc. that went with them so I decided to call the assessors office to get some info on these houses. I found out that my smaller size single family home in many cases was assessed at more than these multi-unit houses. When I asked why, I was told that single family homes are more desireable than rentals and that was why my house was assessed for more thus making my taxes higher.

Now here is my dilema: I really don't think my single family home in the midst of the majority of rental properties is more desireable. In fact I would differ to say that it is a disadvantage to me if I was trying to sell my property.

I maintain my home, make improvements, landscape it attractively, and I get penalized for this. Sure there may be times when I put out a bit more trash than others but all in all I feel it's an average amount based on a single family residence. Meanwhile, all around the block there is barely a week that goes by that we don't see mattresses, couches, chairs, overflowing trash, etc. Now multiply that by the 10 other rentals in my neighborhood. You see my concern? I'm sorry but these properties have been getting away with murder for years. The only equitable way is to charge each unit a fee. Otherwise there are too many gray areas to argue over.

Anonymous said...

Btw-the city does not require rental property of 3 or more units to provide their own way of disposing garbage. Or if they do, they do not enforce it.

Anonymous said...

You should just convert your single officially to a double and ask for lower taxes! Since the city let HV break all the parking and size reqt laws they certainly can't say no to you or you can sue them!

MJ said...

If anyone wanted to rehab their structure to SHPO spproved Historic Preservation Guidlines, even if it involved breaking into units to make it work, I'm sure the Zoning Appeals Board would come to a similar decision. I'd vote yes. A vast majority of people who come before the board find common ground with the board and get approved.

Standard assessments are a joke. They can fly in a growing area but in depressed areas they just add to the problem. Especially when income property is treated as a lower tax burden or people are rewarded for letting their property slide/punished for improving it.

Anonymous said...

MJ that is why it is so crucial to have a committed Building Inspection Department and Housing Court Judges that will stay tough on keeping houses from decaying. Unfortunately I don't really see the success that they claim to have had. I can name you bunches of homes that have gone down the tubes in the last few years. I can't wait to see the reassesments on these rental properties! We as a city will have to somehow pick up the slack on the reduced taxes on these. It's a perverse system.

Jason Walling said...

I am going to check on the "more than 3 unit garbage law" just for my own curiousity, but regardless, there is a flawed and abused system in place. Your argument however, is not totally accurate.

Garbage pickup and assessment of houses are two completely different things. Most all services the city provides are provided objectively and equally to all residents. The city has chosen to charge us for these services based on how much our house is worth. Your argument that lowly assessed multi-unit housing gets a break on their garbage pickup can really be turned around to fit any argument of services in the city.

My modest home is assessed at $60,000. Elmer Granchelli's home is assessed at $425,000. I pay just under $1000 for my city taxes. Mr. Granchelli pays $6770. So should police respond faster to Granchelli's house than to mine? Should his street be plowed first? Should he be allowed to put 7 times the amount of garbage to the curb than I do?

Your argument of residents with lower assessments putting more garbage out than you is unfortunately irrelevant. We all get the same services provided to us from the city. The city never told you you couldn't put mattresses and couches to the road every week. Next week if you decide to clean out your attic and line your curb with an abundance of trash I am quite sure the city will pick it up. People utilize city services differently. I am not on a treed lot, therefore I do not have huge piles of leaves in front of my house. My neighbor does. Is it fair that I pay roughly the same amount of taxes as my neighbor and they put out way more leaves than I do? I would say that's not fair. The city performed a service for my neighbor and not me. Should that neighbor have paid more? No. Because we were both provided with the service, I just didn't have the means to utilize it.

Anonymous said...

Ok Jason, what do you think about this? I live next to a 5-unit apartment house (which I guarantee you there is no current law about garbage having to be provided separately), There happens to be atleast 3-4 police calls per month about roudiness, and other various nuisance problems. Should we relook at how that affects taxpayers on a whole? (There are many properties like this I can assure you.) Imho I say yes. Why should our police force be tied up constantly with these problem houses?

Also, you are a landlord- I can understand your feeling on the garbage situation- it works great for you. However, Lockport is unique in the fact that currently anything goes... I dislike driving around the neighborhoods each week and seeing large items spewn all over the city right-of- way. We used to have "Large Pick-up" days certain times of the year. I think we need to return to that. It becomes a quality of life issue for all.

MJ said...

I agree on the "large pick-up day". I was surprised by the anytime Lockport large disposal. It is an eyesore.

I guess my thoughts are people should be paying for services (like trash) that are independent of how much their houses cost. I should not have to pay more for trash because I invested in my house. I should have to pay more for trash if my house investments are creating more trash every week.

The current system promotes the unwanted system of trying to keep your assessment low (minimum improvements) and your income high (number of apartments). This creates a system where more trash generation is resulting in paying less per amount of trash.

Blanket city services are nice when money is rolling into the coffers since it covers the waste that results from the free-for-all. When the money is not rolling in the weakness is exposed.

I know the mayor has made note of his dislike of the leaf pickup. I think it falls into street maintenance since a majority of trees are in the city right-of-way. It also promotes keeping/planting trees for the environmental and aesthetic benefits. Free-for-all trash does just the opposite.

Anonymous said...

I think Jason will find out some day but you don't make a lot of money on apartments in Lockport (thats why I laugh at HV spending $170,000 per unit for theirs). Check out how people with a lot of units ended up, such as Bob Jackson and Dan Kane.
People think landlords make a lot, they don't. Figure it out, you buy a three family for $90,000. Your mortgage and taxes are probably around $1000. You water and sewer bill would be around $150 a month. Three apartments would get you around $1500 rent, minus say 10% vacancy $1350 per month, vs. the $1150 expenses for a 'profit' of $200. OK, now factor in lawn care, snow plowing, carpets, painting, major repairs (roof, furnaces, etc). The money just isn't there and the attitude of many people of how good landlords have it is really off base.
With the low rents in Lockport (since we are known as a low end community for housing) landlords can't afford more expenses without cutting back on other areas of the house.
Unless of course if you are HV and have the gov't subsidizing all your taxes and rents!

Anonymous said...

Okay- just for your information the people you speak of had made lots of money from rental properties in Lockport. Unfortunately, buying lots of rental property cheaply, sucking out the money and value without doing proper maintance and screening will eventually come back to bite you. In most cases your tenants are only as good as your properties. Another problem is that we allowed conversion on way too many homes in Lockport.

Anonymous said...

oh, so once again to fix the problem we are going to let HV add even more units to existing houses plus build new ones on empty lots. Makes a lot of sense to me.

Jason said...

First Anon...You're blaming the 3-4 police calls per month in the 5 unit apartment complex on the landlord. These people will live in lockport they're whole life. They are trashy, rowdy people. If they bought a single family house would this change their demeanor? I would think the police would still be called to their house. I don't understand your argument that the police calls are the landlord's fault, therefore he should be paying more in taxes.

I'm entering my 4th year as a landlord of several properties and I will agree with the one Anon...you don't make a lot of money being a landlord. Your numbers were a little off, but for the most part you have the right idea. For the landlords who want to keep their houses nice and keep good tenants, it is an art to make the numbers work. Let's keep bombarding the landlords with more fees and taxes. Then maybe all the landlords will choose to pay the mandatory fees instead of putting a new roof on their rental property. Maybe then the landlords will raise rents forcing even more tenants into government subsidized housing. In fact, let's make it impossible for landlords to make any sort of profit on apartment houses in the city of Lockport. We'll move all renters to Rulmann Road so they're living fully on taxpayer's dime, and then we'll just abandon all the multi-unit houses in Lockport since no private landlord can make it profitable to operate them. Lockport will lose the tax revenue from them completely, and we as a community will continue to ruin neighborhoods with dilapated eye sores.

Anonymous said...

Let's be honest, no one buys a 3-unit $90,000 rental property in Lockport these days. At least not in the high rental areas that "slum lords" take advantage of.

I do understand the challenges that come with rental property because I happened to have owned one myself. At the same time, I have no sympathy for you or anyone who wants to complain about how hard it is on landlords.

Unfortunately many people have no business buying rental property without understanding in advance what is involved. Just like your own home, rental property requires proper upkeep. Unfortunately that seems to be lacking in a good majority of properties here in Lockport. Your property is only as marketable as you make it. If you keep your rental property in good condition and are a little more selective, in most cases you will find good tenants --anything else is an excuse.

MJ said...

I too usually think of the multi-units bought up at auction/etc. I know of one on Washburn that was had for $8500.

The public comment session is tomorrow. New blog post and continueing comments are here:

http://lockportforum.blogspot.com/2010/11/budget-2011-part-2-presentation.html

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