City of Dunkirk taxpayers received a bit of good news Tuesday when Mayor Anthony J. Dolce released his proposed 2014 city budget. Under Dolce's proposal, the property tax rates would remain the same as the 2013 level, $17.301632 per one thousand dollars of assessed valuation. The city's total assessed value is $279,596,568.
Dolce formally presented his budget during his report time at the Common Council meeting, saying it was a coincidence the budget was due the same day as a meeting.
"Like homeowners, businesses and other municipalities, the city has faced and continues to face many serious financial challenges," Dolce stated. "The 2014 budget is the result of two years of hard work in taking a realistic approach to the city's needs, balanced with an awareness of the fiscal realities. ... As usual, difficult decisions have been made in realistically managing the city's resources as efficiently and effectively as possible.
OBSERVER Photo by Gib Snyder
Dunkirk Mayor Anthony J. Dolce presented his 2014 budget proposal Tuesday during Common Council’s regular meeting. Pictured behind Dolce is Fiscal Affairs Officer Richard Halas, Police Chief David Ortolano and Treasurer Mark Woods.
"This spending plan will be our guideline moving forward and one that we will all need to work within to provide the city of Dunkirk taxpayers and ratepayers the best value possible."
Under Dolce's proposal, the city would spend a total of $21,967,847 with the general fund set at $15,241,260. The water fund is proposed at $3,094,544 while the wastewater fund is at $3,632,043. The total to be collected in real property taxes is set at $4,837,477 and is used in the general fund.
In 2011, the city collected $4,665,568 in real property taxes while 2012's figure was $4,695,259. The 2013 budget called for $4,830,639 in real property taxes to be collected, $6,838 less that Dolce's 2014 proposal.
Dolce listed highlights for each of the budget's three funds.
The general fund will see spending reduced some $100,000 as revenue is expected to remain around 2013 levels and the contingencies line will increase to $50,000 from 2013's $30,000. In addition, the budget calls for the Department of Public works to purchase one multipurpose Sterling truck with a plow and a new packer for trash and recycling pickup.
The water fund will see the second year of rate hikes to fund improvements being made under a consent order along with a $31,000 reduction in spending.
A decline in wastewater treatment revenue is offset by the retirement of long-term debt from 1992. In addition, the wastewater fund spending is decreased over $434,000.
"Proposed increases to contingency allotment and capital projects are subject to long-term objectives of the wastewater plant," Dolce added. "Much like our water plant, the wastewater plant is in need of repairs, significant repairs, and we will be exploring some options in the next couple weeks.
In total, the proposed budget would decrease overall spending over $550,000 while keeping cultural allotments steady. Dolce also said the study of the city's fire halls will be done in 2014 with possible construction as well.
"Lastly, and most importantly, I think this is the one part people care about, there will not be a tax increase in 2014," Dolce stated.
After the meeting, Dolce said there weren't any major obstacles this year.
"At least for my proposed budget it went relatively smooth and I'm thrilled with the end result," he added. "We continue to have infrastructure and equipment needs and we were able to satisfy those without raising taxes."
Dolce added the NRG PILOT payments should be made as scheduled for 2014.
"In general there weren't any major hurdles. Retirement didn't jump significantly, we weren't faced with a scheduled PILOT payment that dipped over $700,000 like '12 to '13," he explained. "So again, just no major obstacles so we were able to put together a solid budget that I think satisfies a lot of needs."
Dolce said the budget proposal reflects personnel costs under current contracts.
"The police was settled so those changes are factored in. If and when the next two contracts that we're negotiating now get settled, we may have to make budget transfers to accommodate those," he added. "What it really came down to was there wasn't any major increase. By cutting spending close to $100,000, coupled with nothing really going up significantly, we were able to just wisely budget a couple of these big ticket items, prioritize infrastructure and equipment needs within the confines of the budget."
Dolce said he factored in many things for the budget.
"I go through each fund, weigh what we did in 2013, what the department request is, what we actually spent so far in 2013," he explained. "I take all those factors and balance what we know the needs are. ... When we saw money, or if we didn't see money, as I went through the process and saw money was available in some areas, I prioritized a couple of equipment needs and worked them right into the budget. I also, as I'm working, left the capital project and contingency lines at zero and then looked to build those up with what monies are remaining throughout those funds. So it really worked out well this year. I'm excited."
Asked about the 2013 budget, Dolce said most lines were on track.
"A couple have gone over budget no doubt. Also, there's a plethora of lines that are under budget, so no real concerns," he explained. "Fiscal Affairs Officer (Richard) Halas and myself, now that this step is over, are going to devise a memo offering some suggestions of how to prevent further overdrawn lines from continuing throughout the rest of the year."
Copies of the proposed budget will be available in the city clerk's office, the Dunkirk Free Library or online at www.dunkirktoday.com. Council will begin its review of Dolce's proposal on Nov. 1 at 9 a.m.
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