SALAMANCA - Salamanca officials will once again look to New York state to help the municipality financially while city officials prepare an austerity budget that keeps 2012-13 spending about the same as 2011-12.
The city hosts the Seneca Allegany Casino and had gotten a share of an annual amount paid to the state by casino owners, the Seneca Nation. A conflict between the state and nation resulted in the nation not making payments to the state, meaning the city has not received its share of the state payment.
The loss of the casino-payment revenue resulted in layoffs and program cuts in city departments and the state loaning the city money last year.
During the city's first budget preparation meeting Monday for the upcoming year, staff members presented budgets, asking if they could replace the lawnmower that keeps breaking or if they could attend trainings they have been unable to afford.
The fire department, it was reported, put $5,000 into maintaining a fire truck to keep it running. Although it has not impacted safety, questions lingered about whether it would be worth putting another $5,000 to keep the truck on the road again this year, since money is not available to purchase a new one.
Salamanca library staff members report buying about half the books it once did.
Despite that, staff said they are holding their own.
"You're all doing pretty amazing," said Mayor Jeffrey L. Pond Sr.
The city staying within the budgeted amount is attributed by many speaking during budget meetings to the health of city staff members.
They say there may not be enough employees to pick up the slack left by a sick employee. In fact, one questioned if the mayor could issue an executive order that no one become ill.
Pond said, however, city officials began working with the state in November to work out how $2.5 million needed to keep the city going can come its way.
Until then, Pond thanked workers for taking on the extra work.
Although city officials discussed expenditures Monday, they are expected to schedule a special meeting once revenues are finalized before adopting a tentative budget during the Salamanca Common Council session Feb. 15. A public hearing will be held on the spending plan Feb. 22, and a final budget must be adopted prior to March 1.
Both Seneca and state officials have requested arbitration to settle their dispute, which stems from both alleging the other has violated terms of a compact they have that provides specifics for three Seneca-owned Western New York casinos. A nation exclusivity zone is outlined in the compact, which the nation alleges the state has violated due to racinos being allowed at restaurants and bars within the zone, along with other gambling establishments. The compact states that if the exclusivity zone is violated, payments do not have to be made.
The state reports it has not violated the zone, and, therefore, the nation has violated the compact by not paying. Since the two have not been able to agree, the matter is expected to go to binding arbitration, although a date for that has not yet been announced.