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Oswego exploring all options to cut costs, generate revenue

Gino Geruntino
Oswego Mayor Tom Gillen has looked at every department in the city, and is making changes to certain cost structures. That includes raising the price of some city fees.

Many upstate New York municipalities are struggling with higher taxes and are scrambling to find additional revenue sources. The city of Oswego is no different and the mayor is trying several approaches to raise money.

Mayor Tom Gillen says the city is examining every nook and cranny of the budget to try to find ways to save money or bring in revenue.

"We're looking at every aspect of city government," Gillen said. "Building permit fees haven't changed, rental inspection fees haven't changed in 30 years. So I mean it's time we reevaluated that based on our modern situation and also the value of the dollar nowadays has changed."

Some of the ways the city is trying to raise money may seem like pinching pennies, but Gillen says no rock should be left unturned.

"People have to understand that we struggle with every dollar we invest in this city, because we know it comes out of the taxpayers," Gillen explained. "That's why we're focusing on generating revenue for those people who use our services, maybe they're the ones who should be paying for them."

The city is trying to work with Oswego County to bring more tourism to the marina. Instead of contracting out its new website, Oswego's I.T. department will build it.

"A grant was provided, [but] we have declined the grant. There was so much controversy that the grant writer was being paid by the city, which he was not, he did it as a volunteer effort. The grant was awarded to the city, and we have declined it because the people feel that they just didn't want to have anything to do with that."

And Gillen says the city is even taking over the community softball league, hoping it will make money, though he says the program lost about $7,000 last year with the YMCA. He says he has high hopes for this year's league and expects the city to make a profit, though he would also be happy to break even and still provide the long-time activity to the city.

"I do not want to lose money," Gillen said. "We're not in the business of frittering away people's tax dollars, but I do think the economic impact it has on our community is very positive. And to just get out of that business, or however you want to phrase it, is probably sending a message that 'what's going on Oswego?' And I want people to know what's going on Oswego is a very positive, good thing."

The mayor says all these ideas are in hopes of not having a repeat of last year, when Oswego's homeowners were hammered with a 43 percent property tax hike. And although the added income is merely a sliver of Oswego's more than $30 million budget, Gillen says every dollar counts.