NIAGARA FALLS—With the City of Niagara Falls once again facing a budget shortfall, projected to be in excess of $7 million, Niagara Falls business leader and mayoral candidate John Accardo believes that the time has come for the office of New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli to once again scrutinize the city’s finances.
Representatives from the Comptroller’s office reviewed the city’s finances two years ago, and found a litany of deficiencies and procedural problems related to the city’s budget preparation and implementation.
“Despite the assertions to the contrary from current Mayor Paul Dyster, the City of Niagara Falls is literally on the verge of insolvency,” said Accardo. “Mr. Dyster is either unwilling or unable to implement the solutions presented by the Comptroller, and refuses to enact any accountability for himself or for members of his administration.”
In addition to calling for the Comptroller to once again review the city’s finances, Accardo advocates that new, bold, and fresh measures are needed to move Niagara Falls forward. "The State Comptroller warned against depleting the City's fund balance while approving budgets with a pattern of structural deficits," Accardo stated. "We need real leadership in city hall that will provide a fresh perspective and bold ideas to challenge the status quo, such as Buffalo and Saratoga have demonstrated. This will immediately put Niagara Falls back on track."
“There are viable alternatives and options that will enable the city to achieve financial stability, but Paul Dyster has little interest in changing the way he and his administration conduct themselves,” said Accardo. “As Albert Einstein said, ‘Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results’. Clearly Paul Dyster is doing the same thing over and over, and the only thing that’s changed is the city’s financial position, which has gotten demonstrably worse during his tenure, even with an annual payment from the Seneca Nation of $20 million.”
Accardo stated that he will begin to roll out what is termed "The Accardo Plan" which will offer realistic solutions to rectify the city’s ongoing fiscal crisis.
“I have studied every city budget from the past five years,” said Accardo. “The Comptroller acknowledged the city’s budgetary failures, and I clearly see a multitude of options to deliver city services in a more financially prudent manner. Unfortunately, the one person who doesn’t see the need to address the city’s financial crisis is Paul Dyster. It’s time for that to change.”
Here is a copy of the letter Accardo sent to the State Comptroller:
State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli
New York State Office of the State Comptroller
110 State Street
Albany, NY 12236
July 8, 2015
Dear State Comptroller DiNapoli,
Just over two years ago, your office performed a state audit of the financial situation in the city of Niagara Falls, New York. The report was very detailed and telling about the serious woes that city government was up against. In the report, a key finding was stated to be "[t]he City has had a pattern of structural budget deficits . . . . City officials balanced the budgets using fund balance and an estimate for casino revenue that averaged $5.3 million annually." Furthermore, your office suggested as a key recommendation that going forward the City should "[d]evelop structurally sound and realistic budgets."
It is my belief that the City has exacerbated the financial crisis by not adhering to your findings and recommendations. Since this audit report, the City has continued to use significant portions of their fund balance and casino money to off-set the rising costs of government. Specifically in 2014, it was discovered that many of the revenues were over projected while many one-time revenues were used as solutions to masquerade around the structural deficit.
An annual independent audit was performed on the 2014 City budget where it was stated that due to the City's continuing use of significant fund balance reserves and casino money, that the structural deficit has reached a stunning $7.6 million dollars. We also learned through a presentation of City officials that casino money and sales tax are steadily declining, thus suggesting an even more serious financial tragedy. Through my own independent review of the 2012-2014 actual budgets, it appears the city is pressed against their constitutional tax limit and has a shortage in revenues. Therefore, it would appear the City is rapidly approaching insolvency.
It is upon these beliefs that I ask your office to take immediate action and perform another audit to assess whether the stability of the city, its residents, its employees, and its future generations, are safeguarded against significant deficit spending. Your immediate attention to this matter is greatly appreciated.