Tax increase needed to get the ship back in order | News, sports, jobs

Ellen Luczkowiak, fiscal officer for the City of Dunkirk, spoke about the state of the City of Dunkirk’s finances during a recent Finance Committee meeting.

‘There will definitely be a tax increase next year’ said Mark Woods, City of Dunkirk Treasurer. “We don’t know the dollar amount yet.”

But it won’t be another year before the city of Dunkirk starts digging a hole that has been getting deeper for some time.

“We’re working very, very hard … to try to right the ship,” said Ellen Luczkowiak, fiscal officer for the city of Dunkirk.

The Dunkirk City Council recently approved an $18.5 million bond lifeline for the city due to a projected negative fund balance of $17 million by the end of the year. City Attorney Elliot Raimondo previously mentioned the financial crisis “Something that has been in the works for years.”

OBSERVER Photos by Braden Carmen Mark Woods, Treasurer of the City of Dunkirk, noted that the current state of the City of Dunkirk’s finances will require a tax increase on its residents next year.

The OBSERVER previously reported that the city had about $198,000 in cash on hand at the end of March, with debt obligations of $16.29 million.

Luczkowiak and Woods both spoke candidly about the city’s necessary spending adjustments and the issues the city currently faces. While next year’s budget will almost certainly require a tax increase — a request that committee members say hasn’t been made in more than a decade — the current budget could also see substantial adjustments in the coming months.

The city is working with Municipal Solutions and the State Finance Committee to address the City of Dunkirk Fiscal Recovery Act. Luczkowiak said the city is seeking help from multiple entities “to walk us through ideas and what we need to do to come up with a plan.”

The city is modeling its efforts to correct its current financial situation after the city of Newburgh, located just off the Hudson River north of Yonkers and south of Poughkeepsie, which suffered a similar financial crisis earlier this century. “We’re following that to understand how they got out,” said Ellen Luczkowiak.

Woods also addressed the city’s cash flow problem, due to the fact that refunds for many of the city’s purchases have not yet been received, such as improvements already made to Wright Park.

City councilor Natalie Luczkowiak spoke with “an ideal world of Dunkirk” with reserves to address cash flow issues for shortfalls technically covered by reimbursements but not yet received.

But what will the city with so much debt and so little money do with the planned events? City Councilwoman Nancy Nichols suggested asking for donations from nearby communities to support summer events such as the Fourth of July celebration and Music on the Pier.

Another source of revenue being evaluated by the city is the expansion of summer camps, which has remained steady for about 30 years. Natalie Luczkowiak argued against an increase, which has not yet been decided. Ellen Luczkowiak reiterated that an interest rate increase is only being evaluated at this time.

“The bottom line is that we have fantastic programs, and no one wants to see any cuts made in the city. But the reality is that we will have to make cuts sometime next year to achieve this deficit.” said Ellen Luczkowiak. “We don’t want that, but we are looking at ways that can help.”

The city is also considering a revaluation for tax purposes. The implementation of new systems is also on the city’s to-do list.

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