Chris’s Corner: Follow The Money

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By: Chris Voccio

Niagara Falls City Council Chairman

If you read some of the comments on social media, it seems that some of the commenters feel that Niagara Falls’ problems stem from overpaid politicians currently in office.

These commenters say that the City Council and the Mayor are to blame for our ailments and they have been in office too long.

The Mayor was sworn-in in 2020 and the entire Council has an average tenure of less than four years. If all of our problems began four years ago, then you could blame them on the current Council, and if they all started one year ago, you could blame the Mayor.

But we all know better than that.

The complaints about the money elected officials make are also ironic.

The Mayor’s salary combined with the five City Council members’ salaries add up to about $140,000. So if you eliminated the six elected office holders in the city, or if you converted them to unpaid volunteer status, you would save around $140,000 in salary expense. That’s salaries for six people, combined. That represents about 0% of the city budget.

Some will then point to health insurance expenses for elected officials, a legitimate issue, but one that diverts focus from where it should be. If we eliminate health insurance for elected officials the savings are minimal. Again, about 0% of the city budget. If we instead had all city employees contribute to their health insurance the savings are massive. In the millions.

As I’ve pointed out previously, the city has a number of employees who make $150,000, $175,000, $200,000. That’s real money.

We can read the social media comments and focus on low wage city employees, but that doesn’t get us any significant savings. If we want to reduce expenses, if we want to create a city where our citizens can afford to live, where our small businesses can afford to do business, then we simply must follow the money.

In previous columns I’ve asked readers to visit www.SeeThroughNY.net. That website, maintained by Albany-based Empire Center, has a database of our city employees’ compensation. And other municipalities.

If you want to see where government tax dollars go, that’s the place to look. We have an abundance of city employees making more than $100,000, far more than much larger government entities with much larger budgets.

Niagara Falls is not a prosperous city. We simply can’t afford these $150,000, $175,000, $200,000 compensation packages. And yet, the social media commenters, even though they have easy access to the facts, like to point to the salaries of low wage employees.

Don’t get me wrong, elected officials set policy, approve or reject union contracts and do many things that impact the state of the city. That’s where the social media commenters should be focusing. If they want to blame politicians for our troubles, they should focus on our legislative votes on the Council that relate to these extravagant compensation policies.

I understand the frustration we see on social media. Decades of decline can be frustrating. But if we’re going to fix the city, and if the social media commenters want to be part of the solution, then maybe it’s time we follow the money. Maybe it’s time we address the real reason why our city expenses are so high.

Chris Voccio is a Niagara Falls City Councilman and can be reached at ChrisVoccio@gmail.com. Subscribe to his blog at www.ChrisVoccio.com

 


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