Another year of budget uncertainties for Dunkirk

OBSERVER Photo by Nicole Gugino Dunkirk Mayor Willie Rosas tells the Finance Committee of budget uncertainties surrounding the city’s transition aid associated with NRG’s reduced PILOT payment. Also pictured is Councilman-at-Large Andy Woloszyn.

2018 will be another year with several uncertainties when planning the budget for the city of Dunkirk.

According to Mayor Willie Rosas, the window for knowing if the state will hold the line on transition aid is swiftly closing.

“I just want to let you know I have been working on that payment (transition aid) … and it looks like we are going to be looking at cutting the budget by 15 percent unless I hear from them in writing. I spoke to the Lieutenant Governor (Kathy Hochul) and Senator (Catharine) Young this past week and if they don’t get back to me by the end of the month and I don’t have anything in writing, then we are going to have to make a 15-percent cut and/or an increase in taxes,” he told the Finance Committee.

Rosas said the $100,000 rebate the city would receive if it undertakes a project to replace its lights with LEDs would help along with savings he has negotiated through union contracts, however, it may not be enough.

“The bottom line, in my opinion, is we’re looking at raising revenues in a lot of different ways. … But I wanted to let you know that’s the issue that I’m dealing with budgetwise. We may be looking at an increase in taxes,” he added.

The NRG payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) payment will be $135,000 in 2018 under the new agreement while the plant undergoes repowering. Under the original PILOT, if the coal-fired plant hadn’t closed, the city would receive $2.6 million.

Officials said they are still optimistic that NRG will repower with natural gas, however, they were realistic in the fact that it has been estimated to take two years to complete the project, which has not yet begun.

The city received transition aid from the state at 85 percent of the PILOT reduction last year. If the city receives the aid again this year, it was originally scheduled to drop by 15 percent reimbursement from the state. Young is trying to maintain the 85 percent reimbursement level for the city.

Treasurer Mark Woods said the city will also need more details on the start date for the city to supply the North Chautauqua County Water District, which has a contract to finish construction on the Route 5 West line in less than 180 days.

“That brings us up to mid-March. We’re definitely going to need some more confirmation on that because that is drastically going to impact our budget for next year,” he added.