Heenan explains ‘nay’ vote for 2019 budget

On Tuesday at the city of Dunkirk’s Common Council meeting, the board passed the 2019 budget in the amount of $23,686,106.

Among the resolutions passed, the ones pertaining to 2019 were passed 4-1 with the single “nay” vote belonging to Third Ward Councilman Shaun Heenan, who elaborated on his decision with the OBSERVER on Wednesday.

“The no vote was spurred on by many things but the main focus is wages,” Heenan started. “This is the second year in a row that raises were given to the same three positions. This year, I believe, there were a total of seven raises, all hidden from the public by including them in the budget.”

As it stands in the charter, there is no resolution needed if the money is in the budget. Personnel costs are written in the budget for each department as a single line item. The overall total pay for all individuals within the department is then entered as a single amount, as opposed to each individual being written in as separate line.

“I have no issue with these people getting raises for the work that they do,” Heenan explained. “They work hard, I would just like to see others get raises who haven’t gotten them. If we’re going to do them at all, I’d like them outlined in a clearer fashion.”

Another concern Heenan has is with the position of Mayor Wilfred Rosas’ executive assistant, which is not a position in the charter. That position is budgeted in for approximately $25,000-$30,000.

“The position was included again this year, as it was funded in the budget,” Heenan added. “Again, hidden from the public in the form of an increased budget line.”

Heenan also expressed a problem with the Development Department, citing the increase over the last couple of years for part-time staff as well as issues with overtime costs.

“In 2016 the budget line for part-time employees in the Development Department was 0,” He said. “For the past two years its been $42,000 each year. Overtime line in the same department is also over $12,000.”

Overall, Heenan believes that the city needs to curtail some of its spending. He went on to explain that transitional aid, which is aid given due to the loss of the NRG plant, will cease in three years.

“The city needs to exercise fiscal responsibility. In approximately three years, our transitional aid of about $1.6 million will end,” he explained.

Heenan went on to mention briefly the second boat race coming up this summer and its incurred costs.

“This year is another boat race, the second of three that council found out about a few months ago,” he said. “The administration signed a three-year contract through the DLDC (Dunkirk Local Development Corporation), but without council getting to vote on it. However, the city is the one paying for all costs pertaining to the race.”

“All and all, I believe the administration should be looking forward to and developing a budget for when the transitional aid ends,” Heenan finished. “That’s the most important thing for taxpayers and the city alike.”