NORTH TONAWANDA – The City Common Council adopted its 2014 budget on Tuesday, that for a third consecutive year, will have no increase in taxes and includes a number of projects to improve the city’s infrastructure.
“This is a good, logical, conservative approach. I think it’s a sound budget and I think it’s going to do the taxpayers of North Tonawanda well,” said Alderman Malcolm A. Needler.
Needler, who presented the budget for adoption on Tuesday, said this was his 27th municipal budget, working on budgets in the city and while he was a member of the Niagara County Legislature. He noted that it would have been “pound wise and penny foolish” to put any more of the city’s fund balance into the budget to try to lower taxes.
“We would be whip-sawing taxpayers, lowering it in 2014, only having to raise it in 2015,” said Needler.
In Mayor Robert G. Ortt’s proposed preliminary budget, the plan was to use $2.2 million from the more than $5 million in the city’s fund balance to keep tax rates from rising. However, after looking at lowering trends this past year, the Common Council was able to cut the line items on hospital medical insurance spending by 7 percent, or $500,000, and workers’ compensation by 6 percent, or $100,000, in the 2014 budget. Needler said this $600,000 will be used to lower the amount of fund balance to $1.7 million.
The $38.5 million budget is up a total of $3.2 million from the current budget, though taxes will remain at $13.16 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, using a combination of increased revenues, cuts in spending and the use of $1.7 million from the fund balance. Water and sewer rates will also remain unchanged.
More than $1 million in infrastructure improvements are included in the 2014 budget, including funding for street and sidewalk repairs, natural gas emergency generators at pump houses, storm sewer separation projects, and water main replacements.
“You always want to use as little fund balance as possible, and I was happy the Council was able lower that amount and keep the tax rate increase at zero,” said Ortt.
In other business, the board approved a plan for the Historical Societies of the Tonawandas to apply for $63,000 in Niagara River Greenway funding to install 22 historical signs along nine miles of the Niagara River, from Gratwick Park to the north end of the canal and from Webster Street to the Botanical Gardens on Sweeney Street. The signs would be similar to signage already installed along the corridor in the Town of Tonawanda.
Historical Society member Ned Schimminger said that, if approved, the full color, 2 x 3-foot historical signs would give people a walking historical tour of the area, pointing out locations of a few of the well-known lumberyards that once filled the docks in the “The Lumber City,” as well as railroad and ferry stops, and information on famous historical figures such as Col. John Sweeney and Lt. Col. Lewis Payne.