By Michael Regan
The Tonawanda News
NORTH TONAWANDA — North Tonawanda will hold its only public hearing for the 2013 budget tonight, when residents will have the opportunity to chime in on how their tax dollars are being spent.
Mayor Rob Ortt is confident that with his proposal pitching zero tax, water and sewage increases and sticking to his predominant political philosophy of fiscal restraint there may be little opposition to the plan. He also cites an audit conducted earlier this year by an outside accounting firm that painted the city’s finances in a positive light.
Council members also appear keen to back most of the mayor’s budget — which stands at $35,355,401— with many of them praising Ortt’s blueprint in interviews conducted during the last month. Thus far, the only change the council has agreed to, in an informal 3-2 straw poll conducted two weeks ago, would move one of two firefighter positions that Ortt planned to create to the police department.
“That’s certainly their prerogative, Ortt said. “I think whenever you’re downsizing, as we have over the last several years, every position becomes more important because every department is operating tightly.”
The council still has time to change their minds, however, with five days left before a final vote is levied on the 2013 budget. They will also have months to weigh proposed projects designated under the capital budget, which stands at more than $1.9 million and is largely geared to infrastructure projects and equipment for police and the department of public works.
“That’s what we’re proposing to bond for the 2013 for various projects,” Ortt said, while adding the new recycling totes that can generate income as well as a DPW truck salt and dumper truck that will reduce man hours are among the the planned purchases.
Roof repairs on city buildings, the continuation of a three-year paving plan on city roads and the separation of some storm sewers that have caused back-ups in older neighborhoods also would be included.
“I spent more than a solid month building this plan with department heads and trying to put together a reasonable plan,” Ortt said. “When I got to the council I believe they see it as a fiscally conservative budget, they look at the bottom line and what its effect (is) on certain department. We’ve had a really good relationship over the last few years as far as this process goes and I don’t anticipate anything changing.”
The hearing will be held at 6 p.m. in council chambers at City Hall, 216