Former Mayor schools City Council on Budgeting 101

 

Vince Anello served as Niagara Falls Mayor from 2004-2008.

One-time Mayor Vince Anello addressed the newly-installed Niagara Falls City Council at their first regular meeting Wednesday afternoon on prudent fiscal management. Unfortunately, none of the five councilmembers were seen to be taking notes.

“The last thirty years only two mayors have had a budget surplus. Mayor O’Laughlin being one of them,” Mr. Anello intoned. “The mayor that followed him used the surplus to reduce everybody’s taxes. The surplus was from the water and sewer fund. Everybody cheered – they lowered our taxes! The pipes are broken now. Guess what? Everybody’s crying.

“See, this is the problem – we have to pay attention all the time. It’s the people’s money and it should be set aside for the maintenance of the infrastructure of this city. I hope we learned a lesson.”

Wednesday’s meeting, by all accounts, was a stormy one, with citizens venting their frustrations as Mayor Paul Dyster sat there smarting, looking as if he’d rather be anywhere else, possibly daydreaming of his next opportunity to quaff craft beers whilst ice fishing.

“You know I truly believed that this City Council would come up with many great ideas to curb spending and address the budget issues that are facing us,” the past mayor continued. “Resolutions are great but… by the time the newspapers are placed in our recycling bins those resolutions will be forgotten. We need to start the process of instituting spending guidelines that have the longevity of an amendment to the city charter that deals with budgets and city finances.

“The guidelines and suggestions are already there. Expand them and enforce them! The budget, Article 5, over the last ten years has been violated numerous times, and nobody caught it. Nobody took an issue with it. Read again the 2013 Controllers report. Read again the Niagara Falls City Council Financial Advisory Panel report. Read again the 2016 city of Niagara Falls audited financials. Many individuals are taking the time to research our financial situation and making an effort to give some advice.”

Most residents of Niagara Falls wistfully recall the days of competent fiscal management that were the hallmark of the Anello administration, especially in light of the striking profligacy of his successor, Paul Dyster.

And when it comes to belling the old cat, nobody pulls it off like the Vince.

“All these phrases – hiring freezes and all… we’ve had hiring freezes for the last probably 14, 15 years that I know of including the four years that I was here,” he stated, the frustration in his voice palpable. “If we had put all that money together from all these hiring freezes we would have barrels of money down in the basement.

“Where is it?

“Hiring freezes don’t work unless you have a policy and it’s not a policy that says we’re going to keep taxes at zero, it’s a policy that says we’re not going to increase spending above this level. That’s how it works.”

Words of wisdom from a past leader. But is it too little, too late, after ten years of Dyster administration fiscal mismanagement?

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