Tonawanda News

May 8, 2013

City on sound footing

By Jessica Bagley jessica.bagley@tonawanda-news.com
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — The council received the City of Tonawanda’s 2012 financial report Tuesday evening from auditor Wayne Drescher, who said the city is in a very sound financial condition. 

“Your fund balance is at about $2.1 million, which represents just over 10 percent of your budget,” Drescher, of Drescher & Malecki, LLP, said at the body’s work session. “That’s good ... That’s what the bonding authorities want to see.”

Drescher said the city has an additional $2.5 million in the fund balance, but that money has either been assigned to this year’s budget or has been allocated for workers’ compensation claims or retirement accounts. 

The general fund had a surplus of $178,000 at the end of 2012. 

“It is good to see it was positive,” Drescher said. “The revenues were a little off in the budget, but you made up for it in expenditures, which had tight controls.”

Drescher was also glad to see the sewer fund at a surplus, which amounted to $179,000.

“That’s not great,” he said, citing the city’s impending mandated sewer projects. “But it is improving.”

City of Tonawanda Treasurer Joseph Hogenkamp said the city must bond $15 million to $20 million more for sewer projects in the next seven or eight years. Councilman Richard Slisz and other officials expressed concern about how those loans will effect the city’s fiscal state. 

“We are just bonding more and more as we go along,” Slisz said.

Drescher offered little consolation, pointing to a massive sewer project under way in the Town of Tonawanda.

“It will not get easier, and you are not alone in this,” Drescher said. “You know about the town next to you, but it’s not just the town.” 

But for this past year, he said the city performed responsibly. 

“You provided all the services to your residents, you paid your employees and you still had a surplus. It wasn’t a great surplus, but you had a pretty successful fiscal year,” Drescher said. 

The city’s insurance consultant Brian Baty also attended Tuesday’s session to provide an update on liability insurance. He said $348,000 has been paid out in claims over the last three years, and 60 percent of those payments were the result of car accidents. 

According to Baty, that figure should be around 20 percent.

He advised the city council to sponsor a mandated vehicle safety education course that would cost $35 per individual. Baty said the course could cut down on the number of claims, and that he could set up the course at the council’s request. 

During the council’s regular session, the body unanimously approved a resolution asking the attorney general to direct sentencing fines from the Tonawanda Coke to local remediation efforts. 

“As a result of the criminal actions of Tonawanda Coke Corporation, the neighborhoods in the immediate area of the plant have suffered specific harm and measurable environmental damage as a result of the release of benzene and other pollutants,” the resolution reads. 

The plant faces more than $200 million in fines when it is sentenced in July. Higgins called for the funds to stay local in March, a few days after a jury found the plant and its environmental manager Mark Kahmolz guilty of federal environmental crimes. 

The city passed the resolution at the request of the Tonawanda Community Fund, an organization led by Clean Air Coalition founder Jackie James Creedon, and The Town of Tonawanda has passed a similar resolution. 

At the end of the meeting, the council entered into executive session to discuss ongoing contract negotiations with Natale, the set developer for the Little League Drive housing project. 

Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000 ext. 4150, or follow her on Twitter at @JessicaLBagley