By Michael Regan
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — Several council members say they are initially pleased with the 2013 budget officially presented by North Tonawanda Mayor Rob Ortt Tuesday evening, when he further laid out his plan that does not raise property taxes for the second straight year.
Council President Rich Andres said while the mayor consulted the council on a few aspects of the budget, many of the details for next year’s financial plan were not released until Monday.
But with four Republicans and one Republican-leaning independent, Russ Rizzo, sitting on the council during the last several years, many of of the political issues that often create controversies among representatives are avoided because of corresponding political philosophies.
And while there will no doubt be differences among council members in the weeks leading up to the Nov. 15 budge approval, the fact that taxes and the water/sewer rates will not increase carries a lot of weight, several council members said.
Third Ward Alderman Eric Zadzilka said he would need to give the budget a more thorough review before speaking on all its aspects, but when it comes to the city’s financial plan “having a like mind-set” eliminates some friction.
“But we’re going to be looking at this budget carefully,” he said.
Alderwoman-At-Large Nancy Donovan agreed that it is a shared fiscal conservatism that is partly reflective of the mayor’s plan and the council’s general cooperation, but also added carrying those beliefs throughout the year helps to reign in spending come budget time.
“Our initial reaction is that it’s a good and fair budget,” Donovan said.
Andres said he realizes regular concessions from city employees during contract negotiations are also a strong part of the the budget’s outcome, which was possible in part due to a retirement incentive accepted by 11 employees, five of whom will not be replaced, and changes to health care in various unions that also saves the city money.
“You’re seeing the end result our our hard work, but also the employees that meet us half way,” Andres said.
Ortt, meanwhile, expanded his budgetary plan, which, if approved by the council, will spend $95,000 for new police cruisers and another $70,000 to hire additional firefighters, which he said will offset overtime costs.
He also said he has cut expenditures in the water fund and reduced spending in the sewer fund. The result of that, Ortt said, removed $500,000 from the 2012 and 2013 budgets, ending subsidies for the two departments and forcing the funds to “stand on their own.”
“I’m proud to say that today the water and sewer funds are in the best financial shape they have been in many, many years,” the mayor told the council.
Public hearings on the budget will take place in November, though they have not been formally scheduled.Contact reporter Michael Regan at 693-1000, ext. 4115.