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SEP 02- SEP 09, 2014

Lockport Financial Crisis Could Be Cured Using Niagara Falls Model

By Mike Hudson

September 02, 2014

Is Michael White the cause, or the ‘fall guy,’ for Lockport’s financial problems?

Lockport City Treasurer Michael White is under fire for a city deficit that may result in a shutoff of essential city services as early as next month, should drastic action not be taken immediately.

The situation is so dire that the Lockport Union-Sun & Journal has called for White's resignation.

"For the good of Lockport going forward — as in going into 2015 budgeting and beyond — Mr. White should vacate the office now. As they're trying to pull the city back from the brink, the Council and Mayor Anne McCaffrey will need help from someone who can handle heavy lifting," the editorial states.

Various internet websites devoted to coverage of Niagara County politics have jumped on the story with heavy boots. White, who has no say whatsoever in how much is spent and how much is taken in, is being publicly pilloried in both the traditional and social media for a budget deficit he has no control over.

For his part, White is blaming former Lockport mayor Michael Tucker, who suddenly resigned in February in the midst of a mini-scandal involving the use or misuse of city credit cards.

Really, in a private business, if company executives overspent lavishly on non essentials, hired cronies to make work jobs and ran the budget up far beyond what actual revenues were, would the solution be to fire the bookkeeper?

We can only contrast the Lockport brouhaha with the situation in Niagara Falls, where property owners pay the highest taxes in the county, if not the state and the nation, based upon the actual value of real estate here.

The owners of much of the most valuable real estate in the city – the Seneca Nation of Indians, for example – pay no taxes at all. Others, like Buffalo land speculator Mark Hamister, are gifted with property and then permitted to enter into payment in lieu of taxes schemes that can result in the city collecting as little as 10 cents on the dollar of what would actually be due.

Most of the tax burden therefore falls on homeowners who continue to see the value of their homes decline, and the small businesses here, which actually pay more in taxes than homeowners or the favored few.

This is made up for by the state apportionment of Seneca slot machine revenue to the city. In June 2013, the city received $89 million from the state, most of which was spent before it got here and pretty much all of which is spent now.

Perhaps White ought to suggest that Lockport cut its' own deal with the Seneca.





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