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By Mike Hudson

He's not kidding. Mayor Paul Dyster wants to raise our taxes for the first time since former mayor Irene Elia's second year in office back in 2001.

It's a sick joke. A city in which the streets are unpaved, 5,000 vacant and abandoned buildings sit like so many death traps and more than half the population is receiving some form of governmental assistance needs a tornado, not a tax increase.

Here's a few of the things Dyster wants you to pay for with a 3.6 percent tax increase on homeowners and a 4.2 percent hike on owners of commercial properties:

  • $100,000 a year for City Administrator Donna Owens, who generally works four-day weeks and hasn't done anything noteworthy even when she does happen to show up.
  • $100,000 a year for Economic Development Director Peter Kay, who has accomplished nothing in the way of economic development and in fact has so little to do he initiated a study to figure out where people should park if there ever is any economic development here, just to keep himself busy.
  • $40 million for a proposed train station and Underground Railroad museum in the Old Customs House on Whirlpool Street. Since the city has no agreement from CSX, which owns the tracks here, or Amtrak, which operates the trains, the likelihood of train station use lies somewhere between slim and none. As for the Underground Railroad museum, the phony, conjured-up history as stated repeatedly by city employee Kevin Cottrell ignores the fact that Niagara Falls played no significant role in the Underground Railroad.

    New York state has the highest tax rates in the country. Niagara County has the highest tax rates in New York state. And the City of Niagara Falls has the highest tax rate in Niagara County. In previous years, when some whacked-out mayor wanted to jack up the taxes on the struggling businesses and homeowners who watched their property values going down even before the housing bubble burst, citizens could appeal to a City Council that arguably had as much, or even more power than the mayor. Don't look for any such assistance this year though.

    The current edition of the Niagara Falls City Council is the weakest in memory. They're the ones who authorized all the ridiculous spending listed above in the first place. Not one member vowed to hold the line, and all of them seem unable to understand that ridiculously high taxes are what keep the tax base from expanding in the first place.

    In Niagara Falls today, someone who buys a modest $34,000 home will pay a mortgage payment of right around $300 a month. A full 50 percent of that payment isn't for the house or the loan at all, but for city, school and county taxes! That's criminal. And that's what's driving down property values in the city.

    When Paul Dyster ran for office two years ago, he said his platform was based on the concept of "big ideas" that would transform the city. Today, none of those "big ideas" seem anywhere near fruition, the city's broke, and he's expecting you to come up with some cash.

    Instead of his big ideas, maybe he should have concentrated on running the city.

    Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com October 5, 2010