No changes after city council concludes budget review

The bottom line will stay the same.

That was the result after another double session of meetings Friday as the Dunkirk Common Council continued its review of Mayor Anthony J. Dolce’s proposed 2014 budget.

The morning session saw department and division heads talk about their budget lines and what, if any, changes they would like to see to Dolce’s proposal. More money here, less money there, but at the end of the day not a whole lot, epecially numbers wise, was changed.

Dolce proposed a total budget of $21,967,847 with a real property tax rate of $17.301632 per thousand dollars of assessed valuation, the same as this year’s budget. A scheduled water rate increase of $45 per year for 2014 is to cover financing costs for consent order work on the water distribution system.

The general fund (Fund I) was set at $15,241,260. The water fund (Fund II) is proposed at $3,094,544 while the wastewater fund (Fund III) is at $3,632,043. The total to be collected in real property taxes is $4,837,477 and is used in the general fund. The other two funds are mainly paid for with user fees.

The amount of funding for overtime in various departments was a concern for council. It was pointed out that overtime will be an ongoing condition for the wastewater treatment plant due to a shortage of qualified operators. There are people going through the training and classes but it will be up to five years before they are qualified as operators.

As the meeting wound down Councilwoman Stacy Szukala asked if anyone wanted to put money aside for the Lake Front Boulevard seawall repair.

“We don’t know how much and I respect that, but if we start construction in 2014 there’s going to be short-term borrowing which we’re going to have to have some type of payment in 2014 possibly,” she stated.

Dolce said that was discussed.

‘We didn’t seee a scenario where the payment would be due in 2014,” he explained.

City Attorney Ron Szot talked budget-passing procedure and timing before the meeting ended. He pointed out council would have to amend Dolce’s original proposal for any of the changes to be in place. If council takes no action, Dolce’s original budget proposal will stand.

“If you want to do, at a minimum, what the mayor has suggested in that latest sheet you have to at least make these amendments to the budget,” he explained. “If you add anything else, you make these amendments plus those amendments. … If you do nothing these changes aren’t going to be in the final budget.”

According to the City Code, the budget has to be passed by Dec. 1. Szot added council would be passing the budget subject to any vetoes and if council can meet the prefile deadline of Thursday for the Nov. 19 meeting council would match last year’s time schedule.

Szukala said she didn’t want to rush things.

“We did put a couple changes through. Seeing this was just handed to us today, I would hope in respect to the people that are voting on this something is put together and these answers are given to us before we go and vote on the budget,” she added. “We still have remaining questions, we need to meet one more time for half an hour to get this settled.”

Szot noted that a special meeting could be called if necessary to meet the deadline. A budget review meeting has been set for Wednesday at 6 p.m. in City Hall to answer council’s remaining concerns.

Councilwoman-at-Large Stephanie Kiyak conducted the review sessions and said she thought things went very smoothly Friday with department heads in the morning and the mayor, Fiscal Affairs Officer Rich Halas and Treasurer Mark Woods present in the afternoon session.

“It turns out that council really had questions for only three items but we feel that the mayor was pretty realistic in putting together his numbers in comparing them with what the department heads had as expectations. We’re very pleased that the process went very smoothly,” she stated. “We’re looking forward to being able to finalize the budget within the time frame that the Charter states.”

She added the bottom line will not be affected as money is just being moved between accounts.

“I thought the process went very smooth, nothing out of the ordinary here,” Dolce said after the meeting. “Obviously we had the hiccup at the beginning with the personnel lines, which we adjusted, again, not changing the bottom line. There’s some minor adjustments today, nothing crazy. A couple more things I need to check on and Rich (Halas) needs to check on.

“Even if there’s adjustments there they are going to be minor, so I firmly believe we’re all on the same page and looking forward to getting some work accomplished in 2014.”

Dolce described the budget as a working document and said the city will adjust as needed.

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