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Ortt presents 2013 preliminary city budget

NORTH TONAWANDA - North Tonawanda Mayor Rob Ortt recently presented the common council with his 2013 tentative budget, which for the second year in a row will not raise taxes. He addressed changes to the General Fund, Water and Sewer Funds and the Capital Fund.

Ortt touched base on the added expenses for the 2013 budget, which include pension costs that increased by 12 percent; an increase in health care costs; and an increase in every day expenses, including asphalt and fuel.

In order to control these costs, North Tonawanda is part of the Tier VI reform that was led by Gov. Cuomo and passed by the state legislature this year. Ortt stated this change would save North Tonawanda approximately $24 million throughout the next three decades.

The following includes highlights of Ortt’s tentative budget:

Healthcare:

The city moved from a single-tier prescription drug co-pay to a three-tier co-pay, including mandatory new employee contributions to their health care. Ortt feels this was a smart decision moving forward and that it will save taxpayers money.

General Fund:

There will not be a property tax increase in 2013. The proposed budget freezes the current tax rate of $13.16 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. The water and sewer rates will also remain the same.

Ortt cut spending in the water fund by $12,200, from $3,024,900 last year to $3,012,700 in 2013. Spending has been reduced by $218,782 in the sewer fund, taking the total from $4,712,582 to $4,493,800. Total expenditures cut more than $500,000 between the water and sewer funds over the past two budgets.

Ortt explained how important it is for city departments to become self-sustaining, focusing mainly on the water and wastewater departments.

According to Ortt, in the past, these departments were spending more than they were bringing in. Therefore in order to compensate for the loss of revenue, the city transferred up to a half a million dollars from the General Fund and put it in the Water and Sewer Fund in order to offset this cost.

Today, the Water and Sewer Funds are on their way to becoming self-sustaining, which was what Ortt projected in his 2011 State of the City Address.

Retirement:

A retirement incentive was offered to members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Union, and members of the Civil Service Employees Association last year. There were 11 employees that took the incentive. Five of those 11 positions will not be refilled, due the elimination of duplicity in the city workforce. This is a 20 percent reduction and an estimated savings of $2.6 million in salaries.

Infrastructure expenses:

• Ortt proposed a $350,000 bond to be used toward road repair, which will add on to the already completed 20 miles of road. This expense is in addition to the $400,000 the city will receive from New York State for road repair in 2013, totaling $750,000.

• An appropriated $75,000 for sidewalk repairs

• Also, $25,000 for 1,000 large, 35 gallon recycling totes. This is part of the pilot-recycling program that North Tonawanda launched last year.

• Finally, Ortt proposed bonding $165,000 for a salt truck. The purchase of this vehicle is expected to improve efficiency and save on manpower costs, because it will require one employee rather than two.

Purchases:

Making public safety a high priority, the city plans to spend $95,000 on new police cars; set aside $70,000 for two additional firefighters; and allocate $7,981,467 in police and fire personnel and equipment. Ortt intends to add the two fire firefighters to ultimately reduce the costs of overtime, saving the city money once again.

In addition, a new greens mower for Deerwood Golf Course is expected to cost $26,000.

Ortt hopes to have the budget adopted by the Nov. 15 deadline. He will meet with members of the council next week to make any necessary changes.


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