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More oversight of budget by Council urged

With city officials growing ever more concerned about large expenditures, Tonawanda Common Council President Carleton Zeisz said this week he wants the Council to have more control over budget oversight.

During an informal session of the Council on Tuesday, Zeisz proposed two measures to expand the Council's power over the budget.

One would require Council approval for any line item that exceeds its budgeted amount. The other suggested policy would require Council approval for any unexpected purchase over $1,000.

The proposed policy is intended to control discretionary spending from unappropriated line budgets, not for funds already designated for a particular purchase.

"If we agreed to pay for a truck, then fine," Zeisz said. "But if there's $2,500 marked for the equipment budget, I want that to come back to the Council. It's to make sure we're keeping track of where things are going"

Even though the city decided to establish a strong mayoral office a decade ago when a charter review commission reduced the Council's power, Zeisz said his suggestion is only intended to help control escalating costs.

"I'm trying to help the mayor's office," he said. "It's not about a mayor or a Council, because we're all in this together. We just need something with a little more teeth so we can say 'no.' "

Mayor Ronald Pilozzi said that although budgets are drafted based on estimates, it is difficult to make major changes once they are approved.

When Pilozzi took office in January, he told department heads to be more conscientious with their budgets. "I don't want surprises," Pilozzi said. "Every department head gets a pretty good buck to make that budget work."

Zeisz and Pilozzi said that in the past some budget lines have exceeded estimates by thousands of dollars.

However, Zeisz conceded, it's possible some of the proposed budgets were too low when approved, so officials faced unreasonable limitations in their departments.

"You can put any number you want on paper, but if it's not manageable, then what can you do?" Zeisz said.

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