The deliberation of the 2013 city budget has to be, if not the most difficult, then certainly one of the most difficult budget processes in the city’s history. Preparation of the budget in the best of years is neither taxpayer friendly or easy to follow so I fully understand if our residents have already tuned it all out.
Mayor Dyster gave the Council his 2013 spending plan thirty days late. While receiving the budget late isn’t a deal breaker it did make things tough for the Council. However, we respectfully accepted the shortened timeframe and immediately began addressing the Mayor’s service cuts, job cuts and tax increase. The administration saw the cuts and tax increase as necessary to close the deficit: a deficit that has floated from a low of $4 million to a high of $10 million.
On November 9 a tough budget situation was made tougher as Mayor Dyster proposed that the city cash in a 44 year annuity with the New York Power Authority. An annuity valued at $37 million in exchange for a one time payout of $13.45 million. It’s a bad deal as designed. It’s money up front versus a long term payout. Not only does the city lose cash the deal will impact the city budget for the next four decades.
A variable deficit, a bad-deal NYPA buy-out, the annual courthouse debt, no casino revenue, and a city budget delivered one month late. These are uniquely challenging conditions with which the Council has to operate. But we were elected to work for you, the taxpayer, and to that end we’re going forward to deliver the most responsible budget possible.
On November 28 the Council will deliver their proposed 2013 city budget. It won’t hold surprises, gimmicks or if-come planning that will endanger the city’s finances. The trouble with if-come planning is just that, it’s iffy. A municipality can’t do business that way. Our budget will do everything possible to turn back the Mayor’s high tax increase for homeowner and business.
We’ll work to retain city services and jobs, jobs that keep homeowners working and supporting our economically struggling community.
As for the NYPA buy-out that was recommended on November 9 it isn’t going to happen as proposed. The terms are murky, the disparity of the payout is unacceptable and the long range implications for future budgets are terrible. Even if the contract is modified the Council cannot consider the agreement until we have a clear idea as to how Mayor Dyster plans to spend the city’s NYPA dollars. A spending plan that doesn’t restore jobs and services or fails to control taxes is something we won’t support: a spending plan put in place only to guarantee that the administration’s spending habits will continue unchanged is unacceptable.
As chairman of the city council I want to sincerely encourage council woman Kristen Grandinetti to become involved in the final steps of the budget process. This is an incredibly difficult budget year and we need all hands on deck with their creative ideas as to how we can best address the deficit, NYPA deal, loss of city jobs and services, and the large tax increases that are on the table.
At this time the Council has cut nearly $5 million from the Mayor’s proposed spending plan. with more than 100 amendments to the Mayor’s budget. As a result we have restored services and jobs while holding the line on both the property and business tax increases. In order to keep this budget in place we will need the support of all Council members.
At the budget public hearing on November 13 our residents came out in force and plainly stated their displeasure on the budget proposal and the administration’s spending. The Council heard the complaints loud and clear. I feel confident in writing that the Council is on the same page as those speakers.
These are uniquely challenging times for our city. A concentrated team effort blending the most responsible ideas with tough decision making is required because nothing less than the financial survival of Niagara Falls is at stake.
Sam Fruscione, Chairman of the Niagara Falls City Council, resides in Niagara Falls with his wife and two daughters.