North Tonawanda Mayor Arthur Pappas released his preliminary 2020 budget during Tuesday's common council meeting, days after a candidate for county legislature filed a lawsuit in an effort to spur its release and two weeks after the Oct. 1 deadline established under the city charter.
The $37.8 million budget calls for a 1.59 percent property tax increase, which amounts to $13.88 per $1,000 of assessed value. In his budget session, which is available via video on the city's website, Mayor Art Pappas said the budget call for any job, service or program cuts and does not propose dipping into the city's reserve funds.
"It has been the goal of myself along with city officials, department heads and the common council to make decisions to produce a budget that is fiscally responsible and beneficial to North Tonawanda residents," he said.
In addition to the proposed $37.8 million in general fund appropriations, the city's water budget appropriations for 2020 is proposed at $2.5 million and sewer fund appropriations are proposed at $4.3 million. Pappas has not proposed increases to the city's water and sewer rates.
The release of the 2020 budget comes after some residents questioned the mayor about why it wasn't delivered by the Oct. 1 deadline. Mark Houghton, a local Democrat who is seeking a seat in the Niagara County Legislature's Eighth District this year, filed a lawsuit last week in an effort to compel the mayor to release his administration's 2020 spending proposal. In addition to Pappas, the lawsuit named as defendants common council President Eric Zadzilka and city Clerk/Treasurer Matthew Parish.
In his claim, Houghton argued that there is "simply no excuse" for the mayor to exhibit a "blatant disregard for the mandate of the North Tonawanda City Charter."
Pappas said the delay was caused by staffing shortages in the accounting department, though City Accountant Amanda Reimer said the mayor's office had all information from her department by early August.
Pappas also said there were some last-minute requests, such as making the dog control officer a full-time position, that extended the process beyond the Oct. 1 date.
A public hearing on the budget plan has been scheduled for 6 p.m. Nov. 1 at city hall, 216 Payne Ave. Members of the public are invited to attend and provide feedback on the budget, which is available for review on the city's website, www.northtonawanda.org. The budget is also available for public inspection at the clerk/treasurer's office and can be reviewed between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.
According to a notice from Parish, the council intends to take a vote on the budget at 6 p.m. Nov. 4, just ahead of the council's regular meeting, which was moved from its usual Tuesday schedule to Monday due to Election Day.