City of Dunkirk taxpayers had better get ready for a property tax increase.
How to alleviate the hit was the concern of Common Council's Finance Committee when it met Monday to discuss various aspects of the current 2012 budget.
From the county no longer picking up the tab on maintenance bills added to delinquent property tax bills to what funds city employees are paid from and if reimbursement was possible for some workers' time was discussed.
OBSERVER Photo by Gib Snyder
Councilwoman-at-Large Stephanie Kiyak (left) checks some figures as Fiscal Affairs Officer Harry Briggs listens to a question from Fourth Ward Councilwoman Stacy Szukala during Monday’s meeting of council’s finance committee.
It was overtime costs that was the topic of most concern, beginning with the city clerk's office.
The overtime was two hours automatic pay for covering council meetings, according to Fiscal Affairs Officer Harry Briggs, amounting to $689.82 paid so far in 2012.
"Does that number include the council meeting minutes they are doing?" Councilwoman-at-Large Stephanie Kiyak asked.
"That's all it is," Briggs replied. "That's what it is exactly."
First Ward Councilman Michael Michalski wondered how that could not be budgeted when it is known there will be 24 council meetings a year.
"We'll make sure it gets in the budget for this year because we know this is a guaranteed amount," Kiyak stated. "Every council meeting it's two hours because they get a flat rate."
After further discussion, Kiyak said she was going to bring something up that wouldn't be popular.
"When anyone is guaranteed that two hours, whether it's the streets department or clerk's office, are we getting two hours of work out of them?" she asked. "That's something we might want to address in the future. If you're out on a call and it's only 20 minutes, maybe you should go back to streets and public works and work an additional hour and a half you're being paid for. The clerks, maybe if they're only going to our meeting and it's an hour and now they're going back the next day, they're spending their regular time to do what they were paid the night before to do, so we're actually losing an hour's worth of work."
Kiyak added that doesn't happen in the private sector.
"I'm just saying any time there's an employee that's getting called out and they get a flat two hours, they work the two hours," Kiyak added.
Michalski said it was a good point.
"Either that night or some other time," he added.
Kiyak thanked him for taking the brunt of being unpopular with her.
"Well, it's the truth. I wouldn't see that," Michalski replied.
Szukala pointed out overtime reports show the time workers actually put in.
"We're all struggling trying to make this budget work and we're all sitting here trying to come up with magic numbers," Szukala added. "We all know what's happening in a couple months; people are not going to like us then. There's not much we can do if everyone's not willing to step up and do their part."
After the meeting Michalski was asked about the budget process.
"I understand that there's issues there with overtime and personnel that are sometimes, somewhat out of everybody's control," he replied. "That's going to happen, that's going to be ongoing. ... You kind of ask yourself, we sit here every month to do this process and we're going to put some serious time into the budget in the upcoming months, what's it really good for when some of those numbers are ignored or overridden for various reasons?
"You've really got to ask yourself, what are we really accomplishing here if the numbers are not adhered to. It gets frustrating at times."
Michalski said he was gathering information for the 2013 budget but it was Mayor Anthony J. Dolce's responsibility to put together the budget, with council having its turn after the Oct. 14 deadline.
Given the PILOT payment from NRG is scheduled to drop $700,000 and the state comptroller's office has notified municipalities their contributions to employee pension plans are going up 2 to 3.1 percent; Michalski was thinking it was a perfect storm.
"I don't know where (Dolce) is going to find $700,000, let alone $1 million, where is that going to come from?" he asked. "I don't see it coming from anywhere other than a property tax increase. We'd be hard-pressed to find $70,000 in this budget, nevertheless $700,000; then you add on the cost from the state. It's going to be very difficult to avoid a property tax increase."
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