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SANITATION COSTS PUT CITY IN BIND

Every penny of city taxpayer money now has been spent.

The city's checking account balance was literally brought down to zero Monday when the City Council approved its last $287,865 to be used to pay Modern Disposal.

Although the payment will ensure residents' garbage and recycling will continue to be collected for the next few weeks, the city's entire bill is $620,000, leaving it $332,135 short.

"There's no place we can go for $300,000," said Mayor Vincenzo V. Anello. "We have to scrape it from somewhere."

City Administrator Daniel S. Bristol said he would be looking for places to cut in other accounts and is hoping the budget freeze enacted in September will help in the search for funds.

"We have two options -- pay the rest of the bill or stop collecting garbage," Anello told the Council at a meeting before it unanimously voted to pay with the city's remaining dollars. "We have no hidden money."

Anello said the reason the city is coming up short now is because former Mayor Irene J. Elia's administration underfunded the sanitation line when she drew up the proposed budget in 2003.

Last year, the City Council did not receive notice that the sanitation bill for 2004 would be about $400,000 higher than usual until it was almost done with budget deliberations, Councilwoman Candra Thomason said.

When former Councilman Anello proposed a resolution to add $400,000 to the line, Elia vetoed the move. It did not gain enough Council support to override the veto.

Thomason said she hopes Anello and the Council now will look into why the costs have risen and find ways to minimize them.

Anello plans to have Modern stop picking up garbage for nonprofits for free in the future and will look into other ways to spend less on sanitation, he said.

Council Chairman Charles A. Walker hopes casino revenue in the coming year will help replenish certain accounts, freeing up other money to be used for basic municipality services like sanitation.

"We walked into this year knowing we had underfunded (sanitation)," he said. "I believe if we get through this year we'll be all right."

e-mail: gnorheim@buffnews.com

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