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.