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ANALYSIS by David Staba

Mayor Vincenzo V. Anello spent most of the summer blaming the gaping budget deficit facing Niagara Falls on his predecessor.

The final spending plan put forth by former Mayor Irene Elia, Anello said over and over and over and over, amounted to fiscal gum and string camouflaged by billowing clouds of smoke and a funhouse's worth of mirrors. Ignoring his role as a member of the City Council that approved Elia's last budget, as well as the two before it, he used the stunningly generous, unquestioning forum afforded him by The Other Paper to decry Elia's reliance on one-time revenue sources -- such as the sales of the Wintergarden and Splash Park -- and exaggerated savings estimates to avoid making needed fundamental changes in the way the city does its business.

Anello's Budget
Publisher Letter
Hanchette: Mt. Views
Staba: Citycide
Local History

Friday afternoon, Anello unveiled his first budget proposal. Naturally, the plan relies on one-time revenue sources and exaggerated savings estimates to avoid making needed fundamental changes in the way the city does its business.

The 398-page document is entitled simply "Mayor's Proposed 2005 Budget." They should have called it "Pay up, shut up and like it."

Say this much: Anello and City Administrator Dan Bristol -- who is slated to receive a 37 percent raise under the proposed budget -- did avoid placing the heaviest tax burden allowed by New York State on the shoulders of city property owners. But not by much.

Both residential and commercial property owners get smacked with tax increases of more than 6 percent, just short of the constitutional limit on taxation. Since Anello wants to increase spending by more than $2 million, the hike would have far exceeded that ceiling and gone well into double digits, except for maneuvers that smack of the same sort of creative accounting he's been complaining about.

Anello pointed to Elia's final budget and decried the gimmickry needed to avoid proposing a tax increase weeks before the 2004 election.

In the end, his first spending plan involves the same sort of trickery, and still increases the load on a shrinking, overburdened tax base.

Anello closed his introductory remarks on Friday by saying he looks forward to working with the members of City Council to finalize the budget.

Since he refused to tell members and other city officials what to expect in the budget proposal until it was unveiled, telling them they'd "find out Friday like everybody else," though, that vow of cooperation sounds like just one more empty promise.

By hinging the financial viability of Niagara Falls on one-time sales and "savings" that are far from guaranteed, Anello seems to be inviting the sort of fiscal crisis that will force the state to install a control board like Buffalo's.

Which might just be his ultimate goal.


David Staba is the sports editor of the Niagara Falls Reporter. He welcomes e-mail at dstaba13@aol.com.

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com Oct. 5 2004