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Salamanca Council to vote on budget $7.2 million spending plan would raise taxes 2% amid questions on state funds

The City Council will hold a public hearing today followed by a vote to adopt a new $7.2 million budget with a 2 percent property tax increase.

The budget process was stalled six weeks ago after Mayor Jeff Pond and the Council could not come up with enough revenues to balance the budget.

The city suffered a fiscal crisis last year and had to lay off 50 workers and cut back programs and services when slot machine revenues from the Seneca Allegany Casino stopped flowing, due to a dispute between the Senecas and the state.

Pond said he and his staff have been working closely with the office of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the state budget and comptroller's offices to find a solution.

Word finally came Tuesday from the state, and the city was told to adopt a budget based on anticipated revenues from the state, which funnels casino revenues to municipalities when it receives them from the tribe.

Pond said, "First they have to get a state budget in place and then they can focus on us."

The proposed city budget will be discussed at 5:15 p.m. today in the courtroom. The vote will follow.

The fiscal year begins April 1, and the city must have a budget in place by next Tuesday so Cattaraugus County can print the tax bills for the city, which are payable in May.

A projected tax rate of $55.14 per $1,000 of assessed valuation is included in the new budget, up from $54.07. The two previous years the rate was held at $52.41.

Pond said the tax levy is projected at $990,176. The budget also includes additional revenue of $2.7 million from other sources -- sales taxes, state fees -- and $3.5 million is anticipated in some form from the state.

City and state officials also have talked about a no-interest state loan, but no decisions have been made.

The Salamanca City School District and Cattaraugus County have budgeted amounts of anticipated casino revenues.

When Pond was asked what will happen if six months into a new budget, no money is forthcoming from the state, he replied, "We will address the issue as it occurs. If the state can't help us, we'll have to look at other options."

The proposed budget does not include any more layoffs at this time and would maintain present levels of services in all departments.

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