If Monday’s work session of the Tonawanda Town Board was any indication, the town’s department heads may want to sharpen their pencils ahead of the upcoming budget process.
The Town Board took the rare step of denying a department head’s request when it canceled plans to spend up to $2,000 to send two police officers to New Hampshire for a day to inspect the department’s new mobile crime scene and accident investigation vehicle.
“I have a problem with two officers going,” said Councilman Joe Emminger. “That’s a lot of money.”
Police Chief Anthony J. Palombo explained that the department has been saving its Erie County STOP-DWI funds to pay nearly $100,000 for the vehicle, which resembles a box truck and will carry evidence-collection equipment, including cameras, portable spotlights and computer stations.
“Because this whole project comes out of STOP-DWI, it really isn’t coming out of our budget,” Palombo told the board. “It’s properly budgeted under STOP-DWI.”
At the preconstruction meeting with the manufacturer, the officers would inspect the custom-made vehicle and obtain ownership documents for the chassis, he said.
“We want it done right if we’re spending that kind of money,” Palombo said. “I guess you could look at it as spending to make sure it’s done correctly and exactly to spec is probably not a bad investment.”
But Emminger was unswayed, and other board members agreed.
“We don’t have a blank checkbook,” Emminger said, noting the town faces a number of unfunded state mandates. “We’ve got to watch what we’re spending.”
His comments Monday followed a review of an audit by accounting firm Drescher & Malecki of the town’s books, which showed that while the town’s expenditures have grown only 0.5 percent since 2010, its revenues have fallen 2.5 percent over that same period.
“That’s where the challenge is going to come, is trying to fill in that gap,” accountant Thomas P. Malecki told the board. “We’re going to anticipate that expenditures are going to increase unless you’re making some service cuts or personnel cuts.”
Plans had called for sending Lt. Nicholas A. Bado and one of the department’s accident investigators to New Hampshire. But after checking with Bado during the work session, Palombo said it would be all right to send one officer, which Emminger agreed to.