With aid, city at state’s mercy

Newsmaker of the month: Filling the Dunkirk gaps

Declining populations cannot keep up with growing budgets for municipalities and schools. It is one reason the tax cap in New Yok state has been so effective. It forces these institutions to look at other avenues instead of just asking residents to pay more annually.

Dunkirk, however, is facing an uncomfortable time and future. A lot of it depends on New York state and NRG Energy Inc.

At a meeting last week discussing budget issues the elephant in the room revolved around the payment in lieu of taxes from NRG. If the repowering had happened already, the city would be in line to receive $2.6 million from the company. Since the repowering remains on hold, NRG will contribute only $135,000.

This is where New York state comes in with what is referred to as transition aid for communities who have lost a major contributor to their budget. “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,” Mayor Wilfred Rosas, at right, told the Finance Committee last week.

Rosas, who is working on his second budget, is a victim of previous poor financial planning. Dunkirk through its losses of business and population over the last 40 years never really wanted to change anything inside City Hall.

As those job and residential losses took place, Dunkirk stood pat passing the costs on to current property owners in terms of taxes and fees.

Growth does not happen overnight, even if New York state and Athenex has committed to opening a new facility with the promise of 900 jobs.

NRG was a powerful force in past city leaders looking the other way when it came to budget expenses. They always relied on the facility as a cash cow.

Now Dunkirk relies on transition aid, which has happened thanks to state Gov. Andrew Cuomo as well as Sen. Catharine Young and Assemblyman Andrew Goodell. Any cut to that aid adds to the budget limbo already facing the city.