Debt keeps increasing for the city

I would like to elaborate on a statement I made during the council meeting on Tuesday when several resolutions were passed by Common Council with regard to the seawall replacement project.

Since my colleagues and the mayor believe that taxes should be raised to pay for this wall, and a resolution was passed to obtain a $4.2 million bond, the City Council will first be required to override the state mandated tax cap. And although options for repayment terms of the bond were discussed at the Finance meeting on Monday night, one has yet to be chosen.

I objected to moving forward with this project for many reasons, most of which were not stated in the OBSERVER article. But what was pointedly mentioned was the idea I put forth regarding revaluating the housing stock throughout the city, since the last time a housing valuation was performed was back in 1996.

Over the past 18 years, things have changed throughout the city. Industry has left, population has decreased, and the overall value of real estate has remained static, if not decreased in some areas.

But that’s not the case for every home. Some homes along Lake Front Boulevard that might now sell for $150,000 are still on the books and assessed at perhaps $40,000, while the opposite may be true in the Fourth Ward a home that may have been assessed at $60,000 in 1996 may now only be worth $40,000. If taxes are going to be raised to pay for this wall, then everyone needs to pay their fair share.

Besides my objection to raising taxes for this project to move forward, my “no” vote was also due to the many debts and issues currently facing the city, starting with an estimated $500,000 needed to replace the failing seawall at the water treatment plant, repaying HUD close to $1 million for mismanagement of the Community Development Block Grant program, dredging the harbor at a cost of $50,000, the Bertges payment of $50,000 soon coming due, not to mention an aging water infrastructure that has already cost us over $100,000 in repairs for this year alone.

Overtime costs are $56,000 higher this year compared to last year at this time. In addition, we will have a $47,000 reduction in revenue from NRG’s PILOT program in 2015, and the effects of the Carriage House closing will also be felt the same year. During the Finance meeting on Monday night, the auditors from Johnson & Mackowiak told the city there might be a shortfall of more than $400,000 in revenues for Fund 2 (water) and Fund 3 (Wastewater), which may be an accounting error or not.

Recently, the DPW director has brought to Council’s attention the need for $8,000,000 in repairs and/or replacements to the wastewater treatment plant and while some items can be put off, others may require more immediate attention, at a hefty price tag. Since there are many more questions than answers about where the money will come from to address these imminent issues, I believe it was most prudent to vote no on the seawall at this time.

Stephanie Kiyak is at-large member of the Dunkirk Common Council.