SALAMANCA — The Salamanca Common Council Wednesday unanimously approved a tentative $10.4 million city budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year with a proposed 2 percent tax rate increase.

The council and Mayor Michael “Smitty” Smith met in work sessions the past couple weeks going over the department head’s requests and finalizing numbers for its first approval this week.

“We have gone through it all, and the work from our end is basically done,” he said.

The proposed $10,399,551 budget is up about $500,000 from the current budget as well as up nearly $1 million from the 2018-19 budget.

“That’s basically from minimum wage going up,” Smith explained. He said many part-time city employees, such as at the youth center and in the Department of Public Works, are at minimum wage. “That increase hikes everything else up. We’re looking at an insurance hike for the health insurance we provide for the employees.”

Smith said the council is looking at a 2 percent tax increase to $63.78 per thousand of taxable value. About $975,305 would be raised through taxes, which is roughly $3,600 less than the current year.

“When the money comes from the state, we get paid back for everything that’s tax-exempt,” the mayor said. “Having that 2 percent increase give us an additional 2 percent of, at this point, what the state owes us, which is $24 million from four years of unpaid casino revenue at about $6 million a year.”

Last fall, the state loan the city $4.7 million to help finances for the next two years, about the same amount taken out of the city’s appropriated fund balance to help balance the budget.

“That leaves us plenty in the surplus. We are far from being in a disaster,” Smith said. “There’s money left to get through next year’s budget, too. And the state has stepped up and said they’ll be there if we need them.”

Smith said the work sessions with the council were productive, adding that the alderman “came in with eyes wide open and level heads.”

“There are no panicked budget slashes. We have tried to control everything we can,” he added. “(The council) goes through it with a fine-tooth comb.”

Among the major projects planned for the upcoming fiscal year is a new salt barn for the Department of Public Works. Smith said the council plans to bond for that project as well as the purchase of a new wing truck for the department.

“We’re buying one new cop car to keep the rotation going,” he said. “As we’ve learned in past budgets, if you don’t buy anything, then all of a sudden everything breaks at once and you have to buy five cop cars, so you buy one a year.”

Other minor changes include a small increase to the historical society budget and a small decrease to the library budget, Smith said.

“We continue allowing our department heads to do their work and give them the tools needed to do their work,” he added. “Our job is to help them run their departments, and I think we did that while still maintaining fiscal responsibility.”

In accordance with the City Charter, the Common Council must adopt a tentative budget on or before Feb. 15, conduct a public hearing on such tentative budget on or before Feb. 24 and adopt a final budget on or before March 1.

Following Wednesday's, a public hearing is expected to take place Feb. 19.

(Contact managing editor Kellen Quigley at kquigleysp@gmail.com)