Dunkirk Finances State Plan Is A Painful Lifeline

The state is proposing an $18.5 million lifeline for the city of Dunkirk. The city won’t be living under a state-run Financial Control Board, but it will be awfully close.

But no city resident should be under any illusion that the state-backed deficit reduction bonds won’t come with plenty of pain. As we noted last week, the city took out a $5.5 million loan in July because of cash-flow issues when revenues weren’t coming in as fast as the city’s bills were coming due. If that loan has not yet been paid back, available property taxes do not cover what is owed. Now, the city will be adding up to $18.5 million in state-backed debt. All of that money will have to come from somewhere.

Get ready for a tax increase up to the state’s tax cap in order to lessen the necessary borrowing. And that tax increase will pay for less, because paying for all this borrowing will mean no frills in the city budget. Every dollar will have to be justified.

And, the city will have to make some hard decisions it’s been putting off in the years since NRG closed. That closure took with it the necessary tax base and PILOT revenue the city counted on to balance its books. Then federal ARPA money provided an ability to plug budget holes. With ARPA money gone, the state-backed bonds are perhaps the only way to allow Dunkirk to restructure without a control board. And, if Dunkirk can’t restructure its operations to have a balanced budget each year, a control board may be the next step – but that’s an editorial for another day.

We’ve been spending money for too long like drunken sailors. It’s time to sober up.


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