By Jessica Bagley
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — Mayor Ron Pilozzi discussed many of the City of Tonawanda’s achievements in 2012, as well as his goals for the future, in his annual state of the city address Tuesday night at the city council’s regular meeting.
Much of Pilozzi’s speech detailed the city’s favorable financial state. He noted the city has balanced its budget and employed stable property taxes with levy increases of less than 2.5 percent annually since he became mayor in 2006.
“This is compared to an average annual increase of 3.6 percent in the eight year period prior to my becoming mayor,” he said. “This year the property tax levy increase was less than 1 percent.”
Pilozzi said the city began the 2012 year with a general fund surplus amounting to $2.2 million, 2 to 7 percent above the state’s recommendation.
And, with the help of consultants, the city has been able to keep its health insurance costs the same while many other municipalities have struggled with 10 percent cost increases every year.
Pilozzi also reminded residents of a large accomplishment for the city that came three years ago when the city’s bond rating was increased to an A+ from Baa1.
“We have maintained this fine rating and continue to save money on capital budget borrowing to improve our infrastructure, buildings, vehicle and equipment,” Pilozzi said.
Pilozzi also discussed the millions of dollars the city invested in the improvement of parks in 2012, with Spaulding Park now ready for development and marketing, and the majority of the pavilion’s construction taking place in the calendar year.
Landscaping around the structure will take place in 2013 and a grand opening is scheduled for the spring.
Shoreline stabilization work along the Niagara River, which began in 2012, will continue in 2013, and a new handicap-accessible fishing pier will be built near Long Homestead.
Pilozzi also noted plans for the Little League Drive project, and praised the council’s work by succeeding in negotiations with the developer for the housing project, Natale.
“We must continue to build our tax base and create jobs through ongoing economic development projects,” he said.
Construction on the 56 homes will likely begin in the spring, but a final contract has yet to be signed.
In closing Tuesday, Pilozzi told the 20-or-so people in attendance at the council meeting he was grateful for the help of colleagues in city government.
“There are people in the back of the room, and those that are sitting up here, that deserve a lot of credit,” he said. “The reality is you can’t do it by yourself. We all love this city, and I appreciate the efforts of everyone.”
After Pilozzi’s speech, business resumed as usual with the meeting’s agenda.
During the meeting, the body unanimously voted to change the city’s policy on who will pay for police overtime charges for special events.
The new policy states, “any person residing in the City or any person, agency or organization maintaining an office or other place of business in the city shall be exempt from paying any and all overtime costs incurred by any city department.”
The change comes after members form the American Legion Post 264 and Vietnam Veterans Chapter 77 objected to the policy during a protest at a city meeting on Oct. 2.
The two organizations, who host the Annual Labor Day Car Show, had already met with the city two times about the charges, after paying $353 in fees for this year’s event. But after the protest, Council President Carleton Zeisz told the vets that for them, the charges would be abolished.
But according to the new policy, organizations outside of the city, such as Ride for Roswell, will have to keep paying the overtime fees.Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000, ext. 4150