Tonawanda News

December 19, 2012

City's budget passed

By Jessica Bagley
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Discussions between Mayor Ron Pilozzi and members of the common council became quarrelsome at Tuesday night’s council meeting, as voices were raised multiple times during talks concerning Pilozzi’s four vetoes of budget amendments the council passed Nov. 20.

The most contentious issue was the council’s resolution, passed in November, that will require the body to approve employees’ travel requests for work. The resolution states the council must approve “specifics regarding their proposed travel, including length of time, location of training and cost of same.”

Pilozzi vetoed the measure, arguing the duty was an executive one per the city charter.

“You guys still have the budget to be responsible for, and can cut that if you believe travel costs are too high,” Pilozzi said. “But my job is the day-to-day management and approval.”

Councilman Richard Slisz disagreed and said the council must step in when the mayor is acting “irresponsibly,” citing a few trips he didn’t think were necessary.

“Are you saying I’m not doing my job?” Pilozzi shot back.

Council President Carleton Zeisz, along with a resident at the meting, said they agreed with the mayor.

A veto override on the council requires four of five votes and Zeisz, out of five members, was the only dissenter, meaning the veto override passed and the council will review all travel requests. 

Pilozzi also vetoed the council’s resolution to cut the budget across the board, excluding salaries, by 1 percent.

The decision was made without departmental input, the mayor said, and at the meeting last month, City Treasurer Joseph Hogenkamp said the departments would still have to decide where exactly to make the cuts.

“The fact the council chose to make a 1 percent across-the-board cut in departmental budgets indicates that the cut was made without attention and consideration of the detail needed to address specific departmental needs and how these cuts would affect the delivery of needed services,” Pilozzi wrote to the council in his veto message.

The council overrode the veto unanimously.

The mayor also vetoed an amendment to the budget that would have cut 1,000 tons of salt, which costs about $28,000, out of the budget. Councilman Blake Boyle submitted the amendment last month, arguing that with the leftover salt from last year’s mild winter, the city wouldn’t need to purchase as much.

However, Pilozzi said he believes the salt is needed to ensure the city has a “margin of safety.”

Although Councilman Tyler Kossow initially agreed with Pilozzi, he, along with the rest of the council, voted to override the veto.

The third vetoed item on the agenda was the council’s reduction of the garbage disposal budget by $60,000. Although the council passed a new contract Tuesday with a private company that would reduce costs, the company, Covanta Energy, has yet to sign the document.

“I am concerned about a couple of things with this, including the fact that we don’t have any reciprocation,” Zeisz said. “We just received news about three new retirements that will cost us about $160,000 that were unexpected. If we save enough money through the contract, those figures staying in the budget can still help offset those costs.”

The resolution to override the veto was defeated, with Zeisz, Kossow and Boyle voting to override Pilozzi’s veto and Councilwoman Heather Little and Slisz voting to let it stand, leaving the measure one vote shy.

Taking these changes into account, the taxes will be raised by 1.09 percent in 2013. The tax rate will rise from $16.43 per $1,000 of assessed value to $16.61. Put simpler, the owner of a home appraised at $100,000 will pay an additional $18 in city taxes.

Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000, ext. 4150