City officials have budget concerns

Will there be enough money to cover the city of Dunkirk’s bills come year’s end?

That was a concern members of the Common Council expressed Monday during a meeting of its Finance Committee.

Fiscal Affairs Officer Rich Halas said he and Mayor Anthony J. Dolce met and department heads will be notified to refrain from any unnecessary spending, including spending down lines near year’s end.

“We’ve been discussing this every single month, … we anticipate it’s going to be a bad, we say the expenses look good now, but,” Halas added.

The Department of Public Works’ asking for three new trucks and possible payment with CHIPS funds was mentioned and City Treasurer Mark Woods said the state agency in charge of CHIPS funding is supposed to send a letter authorizing the reimbursement through CHIPS funding.

“This is something new, all of a sudden we need three trucks?” Councilwoman-at-Large Stephanie Kiyak asked.

“Even if CHIPS money is eligible, we had plans for that CHIPS money in other areas, now (Department of Public Works Director Tony Gugino) is telling us we need these trucks and we’re going to dip into what we were going to use in other ways to pay for these trucks. Am I getting the story right? Why do we need these trucks?”

Councilwoman Stacy Szukala reported the current trucks wouldn’t make it through another winter, according to the DPW. Kiyak asked why the request was coming now and not at the end of last winter.

“Everything is an emergency. We wait until the last minute and they go ahead and they just plow through and do what they want to do because ‘it’s an emergency,'” Kiyak added. “All the rules and everything else just go out the window.”

When talk turned to overtime, Councilman Michael Michalski, the committee chair, asked about overtime in the fire department.

“Why? Why?” What would you like to talk about? How cute the number is?” Kiyak asked.

Halas said the overtime line was nearly 72 percent at this point and the situation is being monitored.

When Michalski said the streets department overtime was in good shape, Kiyak said it was because “they’re not doing anything out there.” She later stated “no one has control over the overtime. It’s a beast in and of itself.” Discussion turned to when the budget lines should be adjusted and Woods said his recommendation would be to address the current shortfalls before the next budget is due.

Halas said the city would have a tough time covering the shortfalls by the end of the year.

“It would be very difficult for us to make that up considering the problems we had in the first seven months,” he added.

As for the city’s bonding for the seawall project, Woods said it was ready to go pending verification in writing of how the payback split between the general and wastewater funds would be set up

“Because of the problems we had with HUD, we are being cautious, asking for documentation,” Halas added. “We want documentation, we don’t want a phone call. … We’ve been burnt too many times. Let’s get it in writing.”

After the meeting Michalski was asked if city taxpayers should be concerned about the city’s financial situation.

“I think it’s something that we need to further address at the next meeting when we delve into the audit a little bit more. We’ll look and see what’s going with Fund II, as far as our water revenues,” he replied. “It seems to be the major push right now and obviously we have to find ways to pay for the seawall that’s coming up. It’s anticipated construction is going to start very soon, it’s going to have to if they want to get anything accomplished this year.

“It’s difficult. Our revenues aren’t exactly where they should be and there’s always some type of expense that comes up and needs our attention as well. It’s that constant push and pull that we’ve got to manage somehow.”

Council will hold its first regular August meeting on Monday to allow city officials to take part in National Night Out on Aug. 5.

Send comments to gsnyder@observertoday.com