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Council OKs budget with no tax hike

NORTH TONAWANDA -- Residents have a zero percent tax rate increase to look forward to next year.

The Common Council unanimously approved a $28.7 million budget last week. The budget keeps the tax rate the same: $12.51 per $1,000 in assessed property value.

"They could not make the budget any lower than what I had it," Mayor David J. Burgio said. "The changes they made still left the budget at a zero percent tax increase, so they virtually passed the mayor's budget."

Adjustments the Council made during the budget process include deleting a lighting district tax for the residents of Wurlitzer Park.

"The majority of the changes that we made stayed," Council President Brett Sommer said.

Sommer said the Council felt it wasn't the right time to create a lighting district tax.
Spending cuts included reducing overtime in all city departments by 10 percent. The Council also decided to keep cut a full-time clerk position in the Building Department. Sommer said the Council's goal in that decision was to make the department more efficient through cross-training and department consolidation.

"The first solution can't just be to hire another person," he said. "We have to do more with less."

Burgio said the department could do more with more. "They sometimes don't see the bigger picture," said Burgio, who said the department has been generating profits that exceed the cost of the department.

Burgio said the department went from generating $47,000 in revenue in 2001 to about $220,000 this year. "They could make more money if they had adequate help in the department," he said. "They could do more inspections, they could do more things. They're bogged down in paperwork."

Other positions cut from the budget include Department of Public Works supervisor and a full-time mechanic for the wastewater treatment plant. Funding for the administrative assistant to the mayor was moved from the mayor's budget to a contingency budget.

Sommer said the latter position is like a city manager position and the Council is trying to prevent a patronage appointment by the mayor.
Burgio maintained the change is a way for the Council to try to control appointments.

Burgio said he might use his power of veto to make changes to the adjustments the Council made.

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