All according to plan

City of Dunkirk water customers will see an increase in basic water rates come January and Treasurer Mark Woods provided an explanation on how it will work Monday to Common Council’s Finance Committee.

Woods said a local law passed by council in October 2012 set the rate and provided for a phase in over two years.

The first part took effect back in January of this year.

“The purpose again is for the debt service payment, principal and interest that the city will be facing with the mandated improvements at the water treatment plant,” Woods said of the increase.

“The effect on all users beginning Jan. 1 will be the minimum bill going up $11.25 per quarter. That would be for all users of the system. … So far it looks like we’re right on track with all the revenue we’ll need.”

Woods said all users would be affected.

“If your service is on, if you have a meter installed, your minimum will go up $11.25 even though you use zero gallons of water,” he added.

Councilman Michael Michalski chairs the committee and said the way the rates were increased matched the long-term debt aspect of the financing.

“You’ve got this long-term financing, a fixed payment, and you need a long-term fixed revenue. … If you were to base this on usage you’d be up and down,” he stated.

Woods said it would affect all users residential, commercial, industrial and governmental both inside and outside the city.

“We seem to be right on track with what revenue we’re going to need for the principal and interest payments,” he added.

Sewer rates will not be changed for 2014.

The committee also discussed the budget process and changes in the procurement policy, including a review of a proposed leasing of a new scanner/copier for the city clerk’s office. A resolution authorizing the lease will not be considered until January when funding for it will be in the 2014 budget.

Fiscal Affairs Office Richard Halas said council doesn’t really need to make budget adjustments and added research by the city clerk’s office failed to find many budget modification resolutions.

Councilwoman Stacy Szukala said the City Code requires council resolutions. Council will consider a resolution to change from $500 to $1,000 the amount a transfer resolution is required for.

Halas had a complaint about the year-end resolutions balancing accounts, including a 12-page one last year.

“What good does it do for the public to see this?” he asked while holding a copy.

“It’s a slippery slope saying where does the public have to do about seeing something?” City Attorney Ron Szot replied.

Woods suggested keeping a list of all adjustments for review by the committee.

“We meet every two weeks, if there was something that was a dire need that’s different,” Szukala replied. “I would be OK with an email or phone call that says we didn’t anticipate this.”

Councilman Adelino Gonzalez said that would be OK as long as all council members were informed.

The financial report at the three-quarter mark of the year provided by Halas shows all three funds below 75 percent in expenses and revenue. Fund I, the general fund, has revenues at 74.9 percent and expenses at 61.9. Fund II, the water fund, is at 59.9 for expenses and 71 percent in revenues while the sewer fund, Fund III, is at 68 percent for expenses and 63.2 percent in revenues.

Woods said some of the numbers are affected by timing of payments received.

Halas ran through several budget line items, explaining a reimbursement to make the point that things happen that aren’t planned.

Szukala noted overtime for streets administration was already at 187.87 percent.

“I don’t even know what to say other that to say what we’ve been saying all along, I think that’s ridiculous,” she added.

After the meeting Michalski talked about the budget transfers.

“Right now that is limited to up to $500 where the department doesn’t need any authorization from the council. Over $500, they’re going to need authorization going forward,” he explained. “That was something that was not being done on a regular basis, so we’ll start doing that. We also are looking to increase that limit up to $1,000. I really don’t think we need to get too much detailed information on $500 transfers within a department if they’re still staying within their budget, but I think we need to know why those transfers are being made and we’ll run it through the finance committee and eventually it will wind up in front of the Common Council to vote on the transfer.

“We just want to know why it’s being done, that’s the biggest reason. Are we under budget on certain items or overbudgeting. Things happen during the year that are unexpected, we understand that, but we just want to have a better handle on what’s going on.”

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