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Salamanca sets tentative budget

The City Council adopted a tentative budget of $7.2 million Wednesday and scheduled a special meeting for Tuesday to hear comments from the public.

That session at 5:15 p.m. in the courtroom will be followed by a vote to adopt what officials are labeling an austerity budget. The spending plan includes a tax levy of $990,000, which is up 2 percent from last year and includes a tax rate of $55.14 per $1,000 of assessment.

Other revenues are $2.7 million from local fees, sales taxes and state aid. The remaining $3.5 million in revenues is based on "anticipated emergency state aid in place of the traditional funding the city receives from the state as a host community for the Seneca Allegany Casino," Mayor Jeff Pond said.

The total budget of $7.2 million includes $1.4 million for debt and bond payments, $2.7 million for personnel, $1.5 million for employee benefits and $1.6 million for contractual, equipment and capital expenses. "Our budget maintains departmental operations as they have been since last fall," Pond said.

The city faced a sudden fiscal crisis in September when the Seneca Nation of Indians withheld gambling exclusivity payments to the state. The state shares those revenues with host communities that have casinos, including Salamanca, Buffalo and Niagara Falls.

"The city is still responsible to provide services, to maintain our roads, ensure public safety and provide utility services. The demands in the city departments did not go away when the host revenues did," Pond said.

"Our department heads, our staff, everyone has stepped up and continue to do more with less," Pond said.

"Department budget requests were at a bare minimum, and we've been able to combine those requests into an austerity spending plan. There are no frills in this budget, and adoption allows us to continue providing the services our residents and visitors deserve, at the most basic level," Pond said.

In other business, the Council also granted a temporary easement to United Congregational Methodist Church for a parking lot on Sycamore Avenue at the site of a pumping station for the city's Board of Public Utilities sewage system.

The church, for $1, will be allowed to expand its parking area at the rear of the church and will be able to blacktop the area. It also must provide maintenance and provide the city a $1 million liability insurance policy.

Also a contract renewal was granted to Building Controls Services of Tonawanda to service the heating and air-conditioning systems at the Municipal Center -- including the new courtroom area -- and the Public Works Department for $3,425 for six months from March 1. The firm has had the contract for nearly 10 years.

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