The state of finances in Lewiston have taken yet another turn, and apparently not for the best. For months now we have been hearing about how much better off Lewiston is now and how things have begun to turn around. Not long ago when he announced he was moving to Las Vegas Town Supervisor Dennis Brochey told everyone how proud he was to have made such great strides with the town’s budget. He even painted a rosy picture of things as he predicted that there was “a bright future for Lewiston.”
I’m not sure what kind of bright future he was talking about but it must have been something other than the current deficit and the taxes that will be needed to try to fix it. Before it was actually approved, we heard of the many months of long hours of work that had gone into the Supervisors proposed 2015 budget. It was called an “important first step” to solving Lewiston’s fiscal problems and there was optimism all around.
The public was assured that new sources of revenue would be found and the withdrawals from the already stressed fund balance would be minimal. Unrealistic revenues figure would no longer be used and all expenses would be held down. But with the latest news it appears that things haven’t worked out quite as Supervisor Brochey had planned.
Finance director Marti Blazik is now warning that there is going to be a reduction of revenue that the town receives from Modern Disposal that will be close to $500,000. After being promised that all types of new sources of income would be found we are now hearing that revenues are stagnant and have “not developed as originally budgeted in 2015.” And for the first time the actual words “town tax” are being uttered out loud and the finance director is warning people that even that will not cure the current situation.
Just as it happened when the Town’s bond rating was downgraded by Moody’s Investors services, the political spin machine will trying to tell everyone that Steve Reiter or the lunacy at Joseph Davis Park has actually caused these problems. But the unbiased truth has already been written in black and white in Moody’s comments about the town’s poor budgeting practices. The words “Joseph Davis” are not written there nor are the words “incredibly foolish spending.” What appeared to concerned Moody’s the very most was the fact that nothing really had changed in 2015. They highlighted the town's fund balance draws “that are expected to continue through fiscal 2015” and its “significant reliance on economically sensitive revenues,” such as expected income Modern tipping fees.
It’s certainly not the fault of the current administration that Modern lost their trash removal contract with the City of Buffalo. But even during the last administration it was frequently stated that the Modern tipping fees had been decreasing every year. The new sources of revenue were never found, and fund balance was once again drawn down to make the 2015 budget work.
Moody’s also warned that the town’s rating might even sink lower if “the Reserve declines in fiscal 2014 and/or fiscal 2015 beyond current expectations.” And that’s exactly where they are. No one has dared to say how much additional money will have to be taken from fund balance to even out this year’s budget. Some are saying it will be a record amount.
In this current election season many have said they want to continue on the same path that was started by the current town supervisor and his former finance director. I think they might be better off to take a step back and look at other options instead. I don’t think that anyone should go down that same road unless they think the future can still be called “bright” with this type of news.
I think that before Mr. Brochey puts together his last budget and rides off into the sunset, the other elected officials of Lewiston should take a hard look at these problems and try their best to come up with whatever realistic solutions are needed to fix them.