Tonawanda News

October 17, 2012

Complaints dominate city budget hearing

By Jessica Bagley
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — City of Tonawanda residents voiced their objections to the mayor’s proposed budget and five year plan at a hearing held Tuesday during the regular council meeting. Speakers were concerned — and angry — about the plan’s increased spending and tax hike.

“I am sure if you spent a little time with this, you could cut costs and spending, and have taxes not go up,” Robert Derner of Niagara Shore Drive said.

Mayor Ron Pilozzi’s proposed plan details a 1.58 percent tax increase for 2013. The proposed tax rate would rise from $16.43 per $1,000 of assessed value to $16.69. Put simpler, the owner of a home appraised at $100,000 would pay an additional $26 in city taxes under Pilozzi’s plan. 

Roger Puchalski of Adam Street also took issue with the city’s planned spending increase, up from $1,854,534 in 2012 to $1,946,161 in 2013.

He was also concerned about salary increases for city employees, set to increase by a small margin in 2013 after a large increase in 2012. 

“I think you need to get these salaries under control,” he said. 

Puchalski’s wife, Debbie, also spoke at the meeting and offered a suggestion. 

“Employees could get a 1 percent salary increase and buy their own uniforms, and then write it off at tax time,” she said.  

After the budget hearing, the discussions quickly turned to the ongoing Little League Drive negotiations with Natale Builders for a housing development at the park. 

Debbie Puchalski presented the council with a petition signed by residents asking for better communication on plans for the development as well as a public hearing and environmental impact study before the city agrees to sell the land. 

“We understand you are very busy and we are just trying to help,” she said. 

Other residents were concerned that the tax revenue from the homes would not make up for upkeep of the area, including garbage, police patrols and snow plowing. 

And Elizabeth Latacki of Taylor Drive brought up a new issue concerning the site.

“Amigone Crematory is thinking about moving not far down from there,” she said. “And people in the town near Sheridan Drive were complaining about that, in addition to Tonawanda Coke not being far, either.”

Despite the proximity of the development to neighborhoods where residents have seen sickness and higher cancer rates caused by environmental issues, Council President Carleton Zeisz said it won’t affect the building of homes at the site. 

“So it’s OK for everybody to live with who is already here, but it’s not okay for people who are coming here?” he said. 

Latacki quickly retorted. 

“Would you spend that much money for a house to go outside, wipe off dirt off your car, and be like — oh, that’s Mr. Smith from the crematory, he died yesterday?” she said. “I wouldn’t.” 

The council has six more weeks to negotiate with Natale before the contract is up. 

“It will come to a head either way,” Zeisz said. 

The council also discussed Smoke on the Water’s request to build a parking lot in a section near the turn at Young Street and Delaware Street.

“They will have to go through a planning and zoning public hearing,” Zeisz said. “It may take a while, but we want to do it the right way.”

If the request succeeds, a licensing agreement would be put in place, with the owners of the restaurant agreeing not to build any permanent structures in the area.

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