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Council intent on more cuts in '06 budget

The Tonawanda Common Council wants to make deeper cuts this week to the proposed city budget for 2006.

The Council is expected to adopt a revamped budget during a meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday in City Hall. If that does not happen, Mayor Jack E. Gallagher's $16.1 million spending plan would be automatically approved.

Council members outlined several cuts last week that would trim the proposed tax rate increase of 9.73 percent. So far, about $270,000 in spending has been eliminated from the budget, which would lower the tax rate increase to 6.17 percent.

Officials have cut about $115,000 from various salary lines, including $75,000 from the Fire Department, $25,000 from police and $15,000 from seasonal workers. Since no employees were laid off, the city gained the savings from current staff retirements and other positions not being filled when they become vacant.

The city also will receive about $170,000 in additional savings from health insurance because the fire union agreed to change its coverage to a single carrier.

Further cuts may be coming.

After asking several Council members what they thought of the current budget proposal and what kind of tax rate they favor, Council President Carleton R. Zeisz said a majority wants the rate to be lower.

"The general consensus of the Council is that they would like to get this [tax rate] in the 4 percent rage, no matter how hard that might be," Zeisz said.

If the Council approved a tax rate increase close to 4 percent, members would need to cut about $200,000 from the current proposal. Zeisz said that this would be difficult, since he does not think that the budget was padded to begin with.

"We're still trying to find more room to move," Zeisz said. "We can only cut so much, and there's not much to take out."

No matter the difficulty, other Council members said, the city must try harder to find savings in the budget to ease the burden on the taxpayers.

"People are facing a lot of difficult financial times right now," said Council Member Colleen R. Perkins.

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