Tax rate the same, spending up in 2014 budget

It’s official, city of Dunkirk taxpayers will pay the same property tax rate in 2014 as they did in 2013.

Common Council unanimously approved Mayor Anthony J. Dolce’s $21,967,847 plan for 2014, with a few adjustments.

The spending plan covers the city’s three operating funds. The general fund is budgeted at $15,347,760; the water fund is set at $3,094,544; and the wastewater treatment fund is budgeted at $3,632,043.

While the budget council passed Tuesday keeps the property tax rate the same at $17.301632 per thousand dollars of assessed valuation, it provides for more spending in the general fund. The $22,074,347 spending plan that was adopted shows an increase of $79,500 from Dolce’s original version. Larger than expected revenues from sales tax receipts help make up the difference.

One change is in the water rate, an increase of $11.25 per quarter in the minimum fee for each customer. That increase was set last year as part of the repayment plan for work being done on the water treatment and distribution system.

Council needed to approve four resolutions in adopting the budget and they all passed without comment during the meeting.

“This budget seemed to be a little easier in some respects as there wasn’t a lot of wiggle room. Wastewater plant was looking pretty good, we got done with one of our 20-year bonds, so money is being allocated elsewhere,” Councilwoman Stacy Szukala said later. “At the end of the day, a lot of the issues have been continuous issues, but those are issues with the overtime and the contracts. … We’re moving forward. We still have issues with the wastewater and water plant and we’re moving along.”

Councilwoman-at-Large Stephanie Kiyak was asked about the changes from Dolce’s budget proposal that included an increase in both police and fire department personnel payment lines.

“There were some items that were left out of the proposed budget when the mayor gave it to council to look at but it was only because we had upgraded in our software system with KVS, so there was some information that was missing,” Kiyak explained. “When we sat down with our first budget meetings that updated information was presented to us and then some of the smaller items that we had asked to have the mayor reconsider and move some of the lines.

“Basically council was in agreement with the budget that was proposed to us, bottom line numbers are all the same. We thoroughly reviewed the budget. … We are all in agreement, which is why all of these resolutions just passed with flying colors without discussion, because we are all onboard with it.”

Kiyak added the budget is a “working document.”

“There’s always going to be funding that may need to move from one line to another that was unanticipated and we’re aware of that. We are kept involved in that process throughout the year,” she added. “We don’t expect to hinder expenditures when they are necessary, it’s all about keeping track of those expenditures and all of us making sure that they are truly necessary. It’s always balancing the needs versus the wants.”

While payments under the PILOT plan for NRG are supposed to be made according to schedule in 2014, the city has yet to hear a final outcome on its issues with the prior use of Community Development Block Grant funds.

“(HUD) has pretty much given us a heads up that there will be repayment expected. How much and what type of repayment plan is yet to be determined,” Kiyak explained. “From that so they told us it could be a lump sum back to the treasury or it can be put against our monies that are funded to us and our line of credit could be reduced.

“Outside of that I think we’ve anticipated everything we can.”

Kiyak thought it might be another month before the city hears from HUD on the CDBG repayment.

The budget is available for review at the city clerk’s office during normal business hours and also online at www.dunkirktoday.com. Any questions should be addressed to the clerk’s office and a written answer will be provided. A public hearing where written or oral comments on the budget will be taken is scheduled for Dec. 3 at 5:15 p.m., just before the next council meeting.

It was announced at the meeting’s start that Dolce and Fire Chief and County Legislator Keith Ahlstrom were absent due to attending an event in Buffalo that featured Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

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