NORTH TONAWANDA – Mayor Robert G. Ortt proposed a $38.5 million budget for 2014 Tuesday that for third consecutive year proposes no increase in taxes and also includes a number of projects to improve the city’s infrastructure.
The Common Council has a month to review the proposal and must adopt a final budget by Nov. 15.
“Being fiscally conservative is passing a responsible budget,” said Ortt.
He said the proposed budget, which would be up $3.2 million from the current budget, holds the line on taxes, which would remain at $13.16 for each $1,000 of assessment, through a combination of increased revenues, cuts in spending and the use of $2.2 million from the city’s fund balance. Water and sewer rates will also remain unchanged.
He told the Council that over the years the city was able to build up an undesignated fund balance of more than $5 million by the end of 2012 and will still have more than $3 million left.
“We want a healthy fund balance, but we don’t want to hoard it,” said Ortt, adding that the fund balance was the public’s money. He said he was using the fund balance to shield residents from further tax increases, while balancing the budget at the same time.
Ortt has also proposed more than $1 million in infrastructure improvements as part of the 2014 budget, including funding for street and sidewalk repair, natural gas emergency generators at pump houses, storm sewer separation projects, and water main replacements.
Ortt said the critical need for some of these repairs was especially felt July 19 when severe thunderstorms dumped 4.3 inches of rain in a matter of hours, along with massive power outages that affected 2,400 residents.
Ortt said this storm highlighted some of the city’s weaknesses and said it will be his goal to address these weaknesses over the next few years.
The proposed budget also calls for $130,000 to be spent on new police cruisers, $31,500 for additional radios for firemen and $60,000 for upgrades at the city market.
“I believe it is our duty as elected leaders to provide the basic services expected of local government in an efficient and cost effective manner. I believe this budget upholds that responsibility by holding the line on taxes and fees, keeping our commitment to repair our infrastructure and ensuring that your money is spent wisely and appropriately,” said Ortt.
The Common Council also met with Niagara Military Affairs Council Chairman John Cooper and Vice Chairman Merrell Lane, who asked the city for $5,000 to support their civilian volunteer group’s $100,000 annual budget.
He said the City of Niagara Falls provides $40,000 in funding for NIMAC through casino revenues.
Cooper said Base Realignment and Closing discussions are starting again and said NIMAC works on behalf of the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station to improve infrastructure and efficiencies.
He said about 150 to 180 families from North Tonawanda are employed at the base as members of the 914th or 107th Airlift wings or as civilian employees.
Common Council members said they will discuss the request as part of their ongoing budget process.