Legal action has been taken in an effort to force the release of the proposed 2020 budget in the City of North Tonawanda.
In a lawsuit filed in Niagara County Supreme Court on Thursday, Mark Houghton, a city resident and Democrat who is running for a seat in the Niagara County Legislature, called on the courts to immediately compel Republican North Tonawanda Mayor Art Pappas to provide the common council with a proposed spending plan for next year as required under the city charter.
In addition to Pappas, the lawsuit names as defendants common council President Eric Zadzilka and city Clerk-Treasurer Matthew Parish.
Pappas did not deliver a budget proposal to the council by the Oct. 1 charter deadline. In his legal claim, Houghton argues that there is "simply no excuse" for the mayor to exhibit a "blatant disregard for the mandate of the North Tonawanda City Charter."
The Oct. 1 deadline for the budget fell this year on the date of a regularly scheduled common council meeting, which the mayor attended. During the meeting, a resident asked Pappas and the common council if there were plans to present a budget and Pappas indicated that it was "not finished."
Pappas cited staffing shortages in the city’s accounting department and several requests for additions to the budget as reasons why the proposed spending plan was not completed.
City Accountant Amanda Reimer, in response to questions from Alderman-at-Large Austin Tylec, indicated that she did not believe the mayor's office needed any additional information to prepare the budget.
According to Reimer, she sent the mayor a summary of working budget numbers on July 18, and then sent a final working copy of the budget on Aug. 2.
When asked if he was considering any major tax changes or staff reductions, he said he was “looking to prevent that kind of thing," adding that he hoped to be able to present the council with a budget in the next couple of weeks.
The charter also requires that a public hearing to discuss the budget be scheduled and that information about the hearing be published in the city’s paper of record no less than two weeks before the meeting takes place.