Council members wrangled over six budget scenarios before passing a $25,446,426 spending plan that carried a $230 garbage fee. They also approved building a crosswalk on Ridge Road at the library, but nixed a mayoral bid to add an assistant city comptroller position.
Under Lackawanna’s two-tiered tax rate system, the newly approved budget called for a 20 percent tax shift from commercial to residential with homeowners paying $16.46 per $1,000 of assessed valuation - up from $15.20 last budget. Business owners, meanwhile, will pay $34.67 per $1000, up from $32.03.
Council President Keith Lewis voted against the plan in the 4-1 vote, but noted an improvement in the deliberation process. “The process we used this year with individual department heads participating in budget work sessions was a good step,” he said.
Third Ward Councilman Joseph Jerge stressed the general distaste for the garbage fee. “We tried six different budget scenarios, one of which put the garbage fee back in the budget, but it put us over the constitutional tax limit,” said “Every single member of the council is opposed to the garbage fee. Over two years we’ve subsidized the fee with money from the general fund, but it’s still the taxpayers’ dollar. Now it’s become a fact of life. “Privatization would cost residents more than the current user fee,” said Jerge. “One way or the other, you’ll pay it. It was never a free service.”
The city council could not justify spending $52,650 for an assistant comptroller whose benefits would push the position’s total cost to roughly $70,000, said Jeff DePasquale, Fourth Ward councilman.
“We consolidated two departments, the Youth Board and Parks and Recreation,” said DePasquale. Marcia Cullens, parks director, will receive a stipend for the additional duties incurred after the retirement of Youth Board Director Jim Sieracki.
The council added $100,000 to the spending plan to install a crosswalk across from the library between Center Street and Electric Avenue. Second Ward Councilwoman Annette Iafallo proposed the crosswalk “to give our residents going to the library a chance to get across Ridge Road. I’ve been fielding phone calls for two years from residents asking that something be done,” she said.
Meanwhile, First Ward Councilman Abdulsalam K. Noman is still waiting for planned improvements at the city soccer fields on Lehigh Street.
• The proposed installation of a pedestrian/bicycle trail along the west side of Route 5 will be discussed at a public information meeting from 4:30 to 7 p.m. July 14 in Council Chamber of City Hall, 714 Ridge. The recreation trail represents the first phase of the Bethlehem Steel Shoreline Trail project, said Mark Poloncarz, Erie County executive. The trail would run along the west side of Route 5 from the Lackawanna/Buffalo city line south to Dona Street. The total length is approximately 7,500 ft. The project is funded by the Transportation Alternatives Program from the state Department of Transportation and Erie County.
Written comments and questions may be submitted at the meeting or mailed and received before July 30. They should be sent to: Christopher Pawenski, Industrial Assistance Program, 95 Franklin St. Room 1064, Buffalo, NY 14202.