CHRIS’S CORNER: Taxes, Fees and Public Safety

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By: Chris Voccio

Niagara Falls City Council Chairman

I recently got a phone call from a lifelong city resident, a gentleman with a last name anyone who grew up in Niagara Falls would recognize.

He had recently had breakfast with his buddies and they were complaining about the new garbage fee. The caller asked me if the elected officials in the city understood how property taxes and the new garbage fee hurt citizens. He was quite upset.

I told the caller that, despite what has happened in the past, I believe the new City government— both the new administration and the new Council — are in agreement that we can no longer go back to the taxpayers for the heavy lifting, that it’s time we run government more efficiently instead of raising taxes or introducing new fees.

 

These are the top salaries for the entire City of Niagara Falls during 2019 as seen on SeeThroughNY. ***graph added by Niagara Reporter Staff***

 

As I’ve said time and again, some of the public employee unions have had a powerful lock on city government in the past, which meant instead of reducing expenses City government would instead turn to the taxpayers. But elections matter, and I believe those days are over.

The new administration is working to create efficiencies by consolidating services with other government agencies. Think about this: Within the boundaries of our city, we have the Niagara Falls Housing Authority, the Niagara Falls School District, the Niagara Falls Water Board and, of course, City government. Each of these bodies has duplicated services, and that doesn’t even consider possible coordination with County government or neighboring municipalities.

A close look at the City budget shows that almost all of our tax dollars go towards public employees (salaries, overtime, benefits, pensions, etc.) and the largest share of this goes to public safety. There has to be a balance between keeping people safe and running an efficient government. 

I refuse to believe that we have to tolerate a racket consisting of insane overtime expenses, padded pensions, Cadillac health insurance and union work rules designed to create inefficiency, or otherwise we are accused of not supporting public safety.

 

These are the top salaries for the entire City of Niagara Falls during 2019 as seen on SeeThroughNY. ***graph added by Niagara Reporter staff***

 

I know people complain about politicians, and that’s understandable. But politicians in Niagara Falls make very little. The great majority of our tax dollars go to City employees, and the largest amount goes to fire and police. I’m sure you’ve all seen the long list of city employees who make far more than $100,000, and that’s not even counting the lavish health benefits and pensions. (If you’ve not seen the list I’m referring to, go to www.SeeThroughNY.net and you’ll be shocked at what you can find.)

Of course, not all city employees, and not all fire and police employees, are taking advantage of the taxpayers. Most of our employees are working hard to keep us safe and keep our city running, earning a decent living. But some are clearly taking advantage of the racket.

Roads and sidewalks are crumbling, trees are falling and blight abounds, despite high taxes and fees, largely because half of the City budget is voraciously consumed by public safety departments with very strong unions.

We need to provide public safety services, but we simply can no longer be held hostage by a small number of powerful municipal unions. We can no longer allow them to force us to make the choice between being safe or facing never-ending tax increases.

I believe we can do this. The end result needs to be a strong law enforcement presence without breaking the backs of taxpayers. We need to think creatively to preserve our primary mission of public safety while protecting taxpayers from the usual union scare tactics.

 

**attorney advertising**


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