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Council to Freeze Spending Including Their Own Dinners

By Mike Hudson

Mayor Paul A. Dyster has no plan in place in the event the Seneca casino money is not paid to the city.
The Council Majority, Bob Anderson, Sam Fruscione, Glenn Choolokian will impose a spending freeze. It’s a novel idea in government: If you don’t have the money, don’t spend it.

With a bond debt of approximately $5.5 million hanging over the city, and no direction from the Dyster Administration, the Niagara Falls City Council is moving to formulate a plan to address the lurking fiscal crisis.

At its upcoming March 4 meeting, the council is expected to present and approve a major resolution to deal with the uncertainty that draws the line on new spending and freezes all non-essential spending.

The move is needed, says the council majority, to rein in spending, cut the cost of government, and prepare for a potentially disastrous 2014.

The resolution, a copy of which was obtained by the Reporter, will require the council to act as a "control board" and impose a "freeze (on) all non-essential city services and related expenditures in an attempt to pay the $5.5 million bond debt until the Mayor enacts a suitable financial plan."

The spending freeze, if passed by the majority on the council, will include, "effective immediately," all "non-essential services such as consultants, engineering studies, training, conferences, travel, events, concerts and all meals (including the city council meals) and legal consultants."

The controller will be directed to submit a monthly expenditure report to the City Council chairman and all requests to spend money shall be submitted to the council chairman for review.

"This freeze shall work to prevent the possibility of an unexpected tax increase mid-year along with layoffs and reduction of essential City services," the resolution states.

“Up until now there is no plan in place to address the budget crisis,” said council Chairman Glenn Choolokian. “At the last council meeting, the mayor told us pretty much that his ‘plan’ called for casino cash to come in on a wing and a prayer. That’s not good enough, and it’s certainly not going to satisfy our creditors.”

The longstanding gaming exclusivity dispute between the state and the Senecas has resulted in the tribe currently owing the city around $60 million. Despite Dyster’s wishful predictions, there has been nothing to indicate that the money will be paid anytime soon, or ever, for that matter.

“There’s no other way to frame it, the city is in dire straits," said Councilman Bob Anderson. “The council that made reductions to these agencies is the same council that closed a multi-million dollar gap in this year’s budget, kept city services and eliminated a large tax increase that was proposed by the mayor."

The council majority, consisting of Choolokian, Anderson and Sam Fruscione, through a series of spending cuts, including cutting city aid to USA Niagara, a state development agency, was able to hold the line on taxes and avert the tax increase proposed by Dyster.

An eight percent tax increase, amounting to more than $200 per average household, was averted and the council majority delivered a zero tax increase.

The freeze on consultants and outside law firms is expected to save the city a significant amount of money in the next few months. The Dyster Administration has spent millions on outside consultants - most, if not all of whom were campaign contributors to the mayor. Just as the administration began an unprecedented increase in salaries for top appointees, the use of consultants for any and every project has been enormous and unique in magnitude with the Dyster Administration.

When the casino revenue was being spent like water, the consultants were at the trough. Even installing a traffic signal required a study rivaling the cost of the street light itself.

Vending booths on Old Falls Street were studied at an expense that surpassed the cost of the booths themselves, which by the way, were never installed as the mayor had a change of heart.

The mayor has a financial plan?

Well, it’s not really a plan, but he says it is, so we’ll pretend like it is, too.
Step One is cross your fingers, and hope the casino cash shows up in full and on time.
If Step One fails move to Step Two, which is to revive the wacky New York Power Authority spin-up settlement that will give the city $13.4 million while losing the city more than $20 million in the long run.
If Step One and Step Two fail, move to Step Three.
Step Three is a wide-open humdinger that calls for “pursuing borrowing alternatives.”
Hmmm, we wonder if the mayor’s friends at the Oishei Foundation are the borrowing alternative.



Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr. www.niagarafallsreporter.com

Feb 26 , 2013