I thought it was time to come back to this page today and begin to give updates in the "e" world as I haven't been doing so in a very long time. Below, you will see the budget statement that I made during our last meeting concerning the monetary state of the city. It's not good, but it's better to let all of you know the truth and stop hiding the reality of our situation.
It is my feeling that we are at a crossroads as a city. We have a lot of good going on, however, the problem I see is that for many of the proposed improvements, we just can't afford to continue with them. It is true, the council decided not to take out a loan for approximately $300,000 to install a splash pad to replace the wading pool. One reason that I voted against this was the project did not come through with exact costs. $300K was the starting point. It's as simple as this - if you can't afford to pay your monthly bills, you don't put in a pool.
Many of the "plans" that have been bandied about for the new Young Street Corridor have not been finalized as of yet. As a council, we have seen "ideas", we have heard wish lists, but seeing exact renderings hasn't happened as of yet. My feeling is that this is because we just got the grant money and didn't want to plan out anything that wouldn't be feasible. Please stay tuned for what will be happening with the closed section of Young St.
I am happy to announce that I plan on running for the representative of the 4th ward again this year. These last two years have flown by and the learning curve is straight up. I feel as though I've found my voice and will continue to work hard for the residents of the city.
The Statement below is not exactly what was read during the meeting. I went off script for a few things.
The purpose of this statement is to put on record, again, the recommendations of the City of Tonawanda Council to begin to rectify the dire and severe budget problem that we have found ourselves in.
18-24 months. I’ll say that again. 18-24 months is all that we have left as a city before our reserve fund runs out and we face the potential of a financial control board. Citizens of Tonawanda we are at our breaking point.
The solution to this is like a puzzle with many moving pieces. First, the positive: We have already seen an increase in our downtown business sector, when houses come up for sale they do not last long as word of our superior services and location is starting to spread, beginning in the Spring of 2019 Little League Drive will begin, there are private investments from organizations such as The Ralph Wilson Foundation , Our downtown is in the middle of a huge revitalization project that will no doubt bring people and businesses to our city. I could go on and on.
Those are just a few of the pieces that are in place for our historic citywide makeover. But even with the great forecast, there are still a few areas in which I believe we need to make progress. I am never one to mince words so let me put this out there as to what our financial future looks like should we remain reactive and not become proactive in our approach:
As a general reminder, our auditors feel comfortable with a reserve fund of about 4 million dollars. After the overspending of the past many years, we are already below 1 million dollars in our reserve fund at the beginning of fiscal year 2019. Less than a quarter of the least amount we should have. If the current trends in health care and general inflation continue, and we have to dip into our reserves as we have been doing recently, we will be out of reserve in 18-24 months. It would be devastating to the services and level of employment that we have come to know as residents of The COT. As such, any talk of new equipment, no matter what department would end. There will be no new hiring to replace retiring individuals. Furthermore, the very real possibility of layoffs across every department will become reality. If you want to know how that works out for employees please go and talk to any Buffalo Teacher or city worker who endured all of this for years on end.
Please let me make this next portion absolutely clear. The state we are in is in no way the fault of our city and union workers, but we are calling on you to help us as you do day in and day out. We are at the end of a very long time period of overspending, stagnant business, housing and development initiatives. The funding is not currently present to honor the length of contracts that were ratified just 2 short years ago. We need to right this ship and we don’t have much time to act.
My plea is to ask the three major unions to please consider coming back to the table and work out an amicable agreement with the city to help in anyway possible to stop what is coming. It is coming down to this ultimatum, either negotiate with us, or a control board where contractual staffing minimums will mean nothing, health care premiums will soar, salaries, and overtime will be frozen, reduced or not available. Everyone will be asked to do much more with much less.
As the representative of the 4th ward, the residents expect me to stand up for them and what I feel is the right move. It is my hope that these words heavily resound not only with the taxpayers who will face reduced services and increased taxes, but with every other stake holder in this process and that we can work together to keep Tonawanda the amazing city that it is for generations to come.
Check back often to see what's going on as I walk the trail!