Councilwoman-at-Large Stephanie Kiyak received a surprise during a re-cent meeting of council's Finance Committee. During a discussion of budget numbers it was noted the line for contracted services in the Fiscal Affairs Department was over 100 percent.
First Ward Councilman Michael Michalski asked if that was money going to the city's outside auditing firm of Johnson Mackowiak and Associates, LLP. Fiscal Affairs Officer Harry Briggs replied that $3,395 went for an industrial appraisal and the accountants fees were included in that line as well.
Fourth Ward Councilwoman Stacy Szukala asked if the auditors were due more money.
OBSERVER Photo by Gib Snyder
Dunkirk’s Common Council Finance Committee met recently to discuss the state of the city budget. Pictured are committee members Michael Michalski, Stephanie Kiyak (left) and Stacy Szukala (right). Also shown are Fiscal Affairs Officer Harry Briggs (back left) and City Treasurer Mark Woods (back right).
"There will be more. You're going to have this invoice for all these responses yet," City Treasurer Mark Woods replied. "It's a lot."
"These responses were not part of their contracted services providing information for the city. They're charging us extra for those responses?" Kiyak asked.
"Do you know how many and I'm not making light of it, this is a very expensive set of answers, yes," Woods replied.
"I did not know that, I honestly did not know that," Kiyak stated. "They provided a report and then you ask a question afterwards for an hourly charge, really? I have an accountant, he does my taxes. If I have a question throughout the year I can call him 15 times and he doesn't charge me.
"They're charging us and we've had them for 15 years?"
Woods said he didn't think the discussion was one for the public.
"This is supposed to be a professional service," he stated.
Szukala then suggested looking at the contract for more information.
Overtime in general was a concern of the committee with Kiyak calling for the 2013 budget to accurately reflect overtime costs.
It was pointed out the mayor has control of overtime but would have to overrule department heads.
"What they do is they go ahead and work it and put it on their time sheet," Briggs explained.
Szukala questioned why the city would pay two hours of overtime for someone to paint a machine in the water department on a Saturday.
"That couldn't have been done Monday through Friday on your regular shift?" she asked. "I don't think that was going to fall apart if it wasn't painted. I wouldn't pay that."
Numbers presented during the meeting showed the city's accounts close to the 58 percent mark that the end of July signals. Fund I revenues are at 71 percent with expenditures at 49 percent. Fund II revenues were at 55 percent with expenses at 46 percent. Fund III revenues were showing 55 percent of projections while expenses were at 52 percent.
After the meeting committee chairman Michalski, who is in his second term on council and working with a second administration, was asked if there was a significant difference in the way Mayor Anthony J. Dolce runs the finances of the city.
"One step in a positive direction is we are starting to see some budget modifications done during the year. We had some at the last council meeting; we're going to see some for the upcoming council meeting," he replied. "Those are things that the auditors suggested that we do, that we don't let things pile up.
We have to move the money before we spend it. This makes sense, you wouldn't do that at home. You don't spend money that you don't have; we shouldn't be any different."
Council has been looking at all costs but the city's biggest expense is personnel related. Michalski was asked if he saw any movement on the three union contracts that have expired.
"No and I don't expect anything to be done on the contracts for actually a very long period of time," he replied. "There's really no incentive for the unions to do that because the longer we do nothing, the longer the status quo stays in effect. The status quo is pretty good.
"Personnel is a big issue. I've heard the numbers where you take in salary, and benefits, and health insurance and pension, and you all wrap it up into one and it accounts for about 85 percent of the budget. A lot of that is overtime and it's constantly got to be scrutinized, it's constantly got to be looked at.
"But the overtime does run through the mayor's office and that's where maybe things have got to tighten up a little bit, is where the overtime is being approved because we don't see it. Council doesn't see it until after the fact."
The mayor's 2013 budget is due for council review by Oct. 14. City officials already know the PILOT payment from NRG Dunkirk Power LLC will be down $700,000 from 2012 under the original schedule of PILOT payments. Michalski was asked if there was a way to make that up short of a tax increase.
"I don't know, I don't see it. It'll be interesting to see what comes out with the mayor's budget," he replied. "Like I said, 85 percent of the budget is personnel, benefits, pension, health insurance. These are things that have to be paid out. I don't know where you come up with that much money cutting services, or anything like that, without some sort of a tax increase. I just don't see where it's going to come from."
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