One hundred thousand dollars.
It’s a lot of money anywhere, but in a place like Niagara Falls, where money’s tight and jobs are scarce, it can be considered a fortune.
In a city where the per capita income for all residents is just $20,327 and the average household scrapes by on $31,531, according to the website City-Data.com, $100,000 is the stuff that dreams are made out of.
A report by the New York State Financial Restructuring Board for Local Governments shows Niagara Falls to be the most highly taxed municipality in New York State in proportion to the value of the property being taxed.
According to WalletHub, New York ranks as the worst state in America for taxpayers.
Therefore, sadly for its residents, the City of Niagara Falls is arguably the highest taxed municipality in the highest taxed state.
A portion of that local tax burden goes to help pay the salaries of 69 city employees who make $100,000 or more a year, according to the public service website SeethroughNY.net.
Indeed, the impoverished City of Niagara Falls is rich with top earners, most of them with the police and fire departments.
With 49,468 residents as of the 2013 US census estimate, the proportion is high compared to other cities. F0r every 717 city residents, there is one city employee who earns more than $100,000.
Looking at similarly sized municipalities around, Binghamton, with 47,376 residents, has only seven $100,00 plus city employees. Or one out of every 6,768 residents.
Troy, with 50,129 residents, has 34 city workers making more than $100,000. Or one out of 1,474.
Utica, with a population of 62,235, has only 19 earning more than $100,000. This translates to one city worker earning more than $100,000 for every 3,275 residents – about five times lower than Niagara Falls.
Schenectady, with a population of 66,135, has 70, only one more than Niagara Falls. With 17,000 more people, the city comes in at one out of 945, compared to Niagara Falls’ one out of 717.
Albany, the state’s capitol, with almost twice the population, at 97,856, has only 81 city employees earning more than $100,000 or one out of 1,208.
Buffalo, at more than five times the population of Niagara Falls (261,000), has 180, or one out of 1451. In other words, Niagara Falls has about twice the number of $100,000 city workers per capita than Buffalo.
Of the 69 city employees earning more than $100,000 per year, 66 work for the police and fire departments and three work at city hall.
Of course a big chunk of property taxes here, go toward the support of the Niagara Falls City School District and, there again, those making $100,000 or more a year are plentiful compared to other cities.
According to seethrroughny.net, 90 school district employees earn more than $100,000 a year, despite the fact that the district is among the poorest in the state.
Comparatively, again, Niagara Falls is head and shoulder above other cities.
Like Niagara Falls, the Albany City School District also 90 school district employees making more than $100,000 but with a much larger district.
And Buffalo with five times the population also has 90 school district employees earning more than $100,000.
Utica has only 14 school district employees earning more than $100,000 per year despite the fact that it has almost 10,000 students – compared to 7,000 in the Niagara Falls School District.
Niagara Falls is rich with top earners while its ever poorer residents are paying higher and higher taxes.
Much of the inequity between what public sector employees make compared to their private sector counterparts is attributable to the rise in unionism among teachers, police officers and fire department personnel and its decline everywhere else.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the tipping point occurred in 2009, when the number of unionized public sector workers – 7.9 million at the time – became greater than the 7.4 million private sector union members.
That gap has continued to widen, to the point where relatively few private sector workers in Niagara Falls are unionized as opposed to public sector employees, who are virtually 100 percent union members.
While city, county, state and federal employees enjoy good pay, great benefits and job security, those in the private sector face cutthroat competition, layoffs and increased income inequality.
In Niagara Falls, one needs look no further than the DuPont Chemours plant here, where an announced closing will cost more than 200 unionized workers their jobs, which paid an average of $60,000 to $70,000 a year.
And to make matters worse, a large percentage of those earning the big bucks working for the city don’t even live in the city. There is no residency law for firefighters and many police officers chose not to live in the city despite residency requirements.
All that money leaving Niagara Falls every payday goes to help make Lewiston, Youngstown, Wheatfield, the Town of Niagara and Grand Island the beautiful places they are.
Gender Factoid: Some 56 of the 90 Niagara Falls School District employees earning more than $100,000 are women. Conversely only two of the 69 city wage earners exceeding $100,000 are women.