Late Thursday night, Mayor Gabriel J. Campana vetoed the 2012 city budget.
"Williamsport doesn't have a budget until City Council and the administration meet at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.
It will require 5 votes to override the veto, J. David Smith, assistant solicitor, said.
Campana decided on the veto after Councilman Bill Hall took out a red pen and found a way to trim $120,000 to fund two city firefighters.
Campana's proposed $18.4 million budget, which calls for a .4-mill tax hike, or $40 more per year for households assessed at $100,000, included removing two firefighter positions. Tax rates were set at 10.58 mills, which translates to $9.2 million.
The firefighters don't participate in a $500 deductible health insurance plan that other bargaining units do.
"The hardest thing to swallow was the loss of the firefighters," Hall said.
Unable to fund the firefighters through a $419,000 COPS hiring grant the city has been notified it can receive, Hall said he scanned all departments to see where cuts could be found.
The council decision was 6-1, with Councilman N. Clifford "Skip" Smith dissenting.
Campana expressed his displeasure.
"This decision will pit unions against unions and employees against employees," Campana said. "It will hurt my ability to negotiate with the police union next year, and there is no reason for the remaining bargaining units to make concessions.
"As a parent, would we reward a child with improper behavior?" Campana asked. "Explain this to taxpayers who pay their own health care. I will not accept the budget and the budget will be vetoed."
The mayor also aimed his displeasure at a federal flood control levee study the city has budgeted $120,000 for in 2012.
He was not pleased with the rejection of a $250,000 payment in lieu of taxes that he asked the Williamsport Municipal Water and Sanitary Authority to make.
He was upset the proposed plan voted on by most of council removes a $25,000 item from the budget meant for an independent study on the city authorities.
Campana said the study has been recommended by the Pennsylvania Economy League.
"I am not happy that after countless requests by my office, the majority of council did not ask for a meeting with the water authority," he said.
Campana wants next year's council to consider a "litmus test" question during the process of reappointing members to authority. The question would be whether these members would consider a contribution to the city in lieu of taxes.
Councilman Jonathan Williamson said health care costs are unaffordable for every employer.
But he viewed the firefighter issue not only as a budgetary one but also as a matter of public safety, a view several on council shared.