By Jessica Bagley
The Tonawanda News
CITY OF TONAWANDA — Before passing the 2013 budget in a 4-1 vote Tuesday night, the City of Tonawanda Common Council approved three amendments to the document.
The spending reductions will result in a 0.49 percent tax rate increase for residents, in comparison to the 1.58 percent increase set out by Mayor Ron Pilozzi in his preliminary budget.
“We worked out the best possible numbers we could,” Councilman Richard Slisz said. “It is very difficult to make cuts.”
The rate will increase from $16.43 per $1,000 of assessed valuation in 2012 to $16.51 per $1,000 of assessed value. Put simpler, the owner of a home assessed at $100,000 will pay $8 more in taxes.
Slisz asked the council to consider cutting all departmental budgets, excluding salaries, by 2 percent per the mayor’s proposed budget.
Department heads, including Police Chief John Ivancic, said putting those deductions in place may be difficult. However, he said the department may be able to spend less repairing vehicles, as new police cars were recently purchased.
“But that’s a hope,” Ivancic said. “It’s a craps shoot.”
Eventually, the council agreed to cutting all budgets by 1 percent.
City Treasurer Joseph Hogenkamp said he will now need to ask each department head where they plan on saving the money.
The 1 percent cut resulted in a budget reduction of about $19,000.
About $28,000 was also cut from the road salt budget.
Councilman Blake Boyle said the city has 4,000 tons of salt leftover from last year’s mild winter. By cutting $28,000, about 1,000 tons of salt will not be purchased.
“If we can’t work with 7,000 tons of salt, there is a problem,” Boyle said.
Councilman Tyler Kossow disagreed.
“I don’t support betting against the weather in Western New York,” he said.
Kossow voted against the budget resolution.
The council also cut $60,000 from the garbage fund, as the rate of disposing of a ton of garbage will decrease per a new contract.
In total, about $108,300 was cut from the budget. The tax levy was reduced from $10,092,856 to $9,984,556.
Per the sewer fund budget, also passed Tuesday, the sewer rate will increase 5 percent — from the 2012 rate of $4.29 per thousand gallons to $4.50.
In his preliminary budget message, Mayor Ron Pilozzi said the increase will hopefully aid the city with future mandatory improvements to the sewage treatment system, mandated by federal and state environmental agencies.
The budget’s passage comes after a few residents complained at the city budget hearing Oct. 16.
Residents took issue with the planned spending and salary increases.
Tuesday, officials said repeatedly that they can’t touch salaries, as they are negotiated through contracts with the city’s unions.
And an increase in salaries from the mayor’s office comes as a result of Sam Iraci Jr. leaving the post of administrative assistant. Iraci was receiving $42,000 annually and no benefits due to pension regulations. The city saved about $25,000 while Iraci was on board, which accounts for the increase in 2013.
The five-year capital plan, which was also passed at Tuesday’s meeting, specifies capital sewer projects for each year until 2017.
Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000, ext. 4150.