North Tonawanda Approves $37 Million Budget

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By: Brendan McDonough

Reporter for North Tonawanda

On Thursday night members of the North Tonawanda Common Council approved the $37 million budget. It calls for a 2.9% tax hike, which essentially amounts  amounting to a $38 increase on a home valued at $100,000.

Prior to approving the budget there was an hour long discussion about what could have been done or should have been done to prevent the City from having a such a low balance in the general fund.

Alderman Donna Braun says the budget discussions should be earlier in the year to allow more time for the process.

“My suggestion at the beginning of this meeting was to get the process going earlier,” said 2nd Ward Alderman Donna Braun, “so we can look at where our problems are and work on them earlier, rather than later.”

Mayor Art Pappas agreed, but said there could be additional challenges facing the City in the years ahead.

“We are aware of what is coming down the line and that is why we have to move into this gradually,” said Pappas. “If we do not move into this carefully and we do not start things sooner, which when I read my budget message, I mentioned in the new year right after this, we are going to be starting on the next year. We are not going to wait. There are things that are being suggested and we have to be more creative on how we increase our revenues. We have to start sooner and we all agree on that. The only alternative is to raise the taxes way up and I do not think the community is prepared for that either.”

Alderman-At-Large Austin Tylec is calling for more transparency. He says he would like to see more than two days of public hearings before approving the budget.

“It is hard to take action as a citizen when there is such a delay in the transparency of what goes on. Twenty-four hours is not enough time for people to decide on change for a $37 million budget.”

For Alderman-At-Large Bob Pecoraro, the conversation about transparency is something he says he hears all the time. The problem, he says, is that to different people transparency means two different things.

“We hear the discussion all the time about transparency and what I would love to have is someone sit down and say here is what transparency means to me. Then lay out the steps to say now you are transparent,” said Pecoraro.

For Council President Eric Zaldzilka, it’s about coming up with a budget that works for everyone and not focusing on the past but looking to the future.

“I am hearing more of what we did before but we need to know what we are going to do, going ahead. I have been on this council for eight years and am I in favor of raising taxes? Only where it is prudent. That does not qualify me as being irresponsible. It qualifies me as having the best happy medium between raising taxes and providing the vital services to this City,” said Zadzilka.

By a vote of 4-1 the budget passed, with Tylec being the only one voting against the budget.

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