Tonawanda News

October 9, 2013

Ortt unveils 2014 budget

By Michael Regan
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — North Tonawanda Mayor Rob Ortt released his proposed 2014 budget Tuesday to the common council, a plan that would not raise property taxes or water and sewage rates. 

Ortt, who is running for re-election to a second term, said the $38,505,154 spending proposal, would hold the line on property taxes, currently set at $13.16 per $1,000 of assessed property value. Water rates are $3 per 1,000 gallons and sewer rates are $4.50 per 1,000 gallons. 

“I am proud to submit a budget that, for a third straight year, does not increase property taxes,” he said, reading a prepared statement to the council during a work session meeting. 

With $5 million in the city’s undesignated fund balance, the mayor said he would utilize $2.2 million of that total to close the budget gap and balance the city’s general fund, leaving roughly $3 million in reserves for 2014. The council unanimously approved a $35,355,401 budget for the current fiscal year.

“While a healthy fund balance is certainly a sign of good fiscal management,” Ortt said, “this is the public’s money and as such we cannot hoard it.”  

While the council will have a review period of more than a month, with discussions likely to lead to changes in the proposal before the budget goes to a vote, Ortt said he views the template as fiscally responsible. 

“I believe in priorities-based budgeting and a commitment to provide fundamental public services at the lowest possible cost,” he said. 

Most common council members said they would reserve judgment until they had more time to pore over the proposal. But Alderman-At-Large Mal Needler, who sat in on some of the budget discussions, said of the mayor that “as long as he did what we were talking about, I’m sure it’s a great budget.”  

The announcement comes after weeks of budgetary talks conducted with various department heads and less than a month before elections. Ortt, who said despite the fact he has cut the city’s workforce by 17 percent in less than four years, he still sees pension and health care costs for employees as among the city’s largest expenditures. 

He also suggested earmarking $850,000 toward repairing city roadways and sidewalks, with $550,000 of that coming from expected state funds. Another $900,000 would go toward repairing the city’s combined sanitary and sewage systems, some antiquated water mains and emergency natural gas generators.  

Additionally, Ortt would set aside $75,000 to add to the city’s growing legion of recycling totes, $60,0000 for the city market and $130,000 for new police cruisers, adding that the proposal adheres to his administration’s devotion to “providing services necessary to protect and assist our residents and business community” without raising taxes. 

“I believe it is our duty and responsibility as elected leaders to provide basic services expected of local government in an efficient and cost-effective manner,” he said. “I believe this budget upholds that responsibility by holding the line on taxes and fees, keeping our commitment to repair infrastructure and ensuring that your money is spent wisely and appropriately.” 

Contact reporter Michael Regan at 693-1000, ext. 4115.