Baby steps approach to Budget won’t help in closing $12 million shortfall

“Baby steps.”

It’s a term used in Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-Step programs to warn those with substance abuse problems not to try and take on too much at once.

Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster and his reliable rubber stamps on the City Council, Kristen Grandinetti and Andrew Touma, have a substance abuse problem. The substance is money, your money, and now they’re trying to make it appear as though they’re taking the baby steps approach towards making everything better here.

“The day the budget came out, I said this is exactly what would happen,” declared City Council candidate Sam Archie.

What happened was this:

Mayor Dyster’s proposed 2018 budget contained a line item doubling the police club uniform allowance. Councilmembers Touma and Grandinetti miraculously “discovered” that this failed to take into account recent union agreements that include uniform allowances being rolled into an employee’s base pay.

More than 300 city employees were recently given whopping raises by the mayor, Ms. Grandinetti, Mr. Touma and lame duck city Councilman Charles Walker.

The subsequent elimination of the item included in the Council’s recommended budget amendments will net an additional $143,916 in savings.

“We will continue to carefully review the 2018 proposed budget line by line to identify any and all cost savings,” Ms. Grandinetti said with a straight face. “Faced with our current financial situation, we owe it to ourselves and to the taxpayers in order to maintain a level of fiscal responsibility for the future of our city.”

A scathing audit of city finances issued by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli warned that Niagara Falls would be dead broke and unable to make payroll by some point in December of this year, and that the difference between the 2018 Dyster-proposed budget and actual revenue coming in from property taxes, state and federal aid and other sources would create a $12 million shortfall.

City Controller Daniel Morello slapped himself, Kristen Grandinetti and Andy Touma heartily on the back.

“Over the last several weeks, my office has spent a great deal of time with councilmembers to deliver a fiscally sound and satisfactory budget for the people of Niagara Falls,” Mr. Morello said. “I am pleased to see this level of collaboration from our elected leaders.”

For his part, Mr. Touma was also in a self-congratulatory mode.

“I look forward to continuing to work with Controller Morello and my fellow councilmembers to identify necessary cost savings to produce a fair and balanced budget for the residents of the city of Niagara Falls,” he said.

Both Ms. Grandinetti and Mr. Touma also support Mayor Dyster’s proposed tax increases, which would jack up rates by three percent for residential properties here and 14 percent on business properties. That would add another $2.7 million to city coffers in 2018, leaving the mayor short by only a little more than $9 million.

Councilmembers Grandinetti and Touma, pictured here with Mayor Dyster, support his proposed tax increases on businesses and residents. They are up for re-election in less than two weeks.

Niagara Falls is already the most heavily taxed municipality in relation to property values in the most heavily taxed state in the nation. Residents and businesses have fled in droves, often just abandoning the buildings they made their lives and livelihoods in, throughout Paul Dyster’s nine year reign of error.

Even an administration initiative to actually pay people to live here was an utter and complete failure.

When former city Controller Maria Brown warned of the impending crisis, Dyster fired her.

With the council election looming in November, did Dr. Dyster insert line items in the budget that could be “found” and eliminated by his favored incumbent candidates, Kristen Grandinetti and Andy Touma?

Lots of people here think so. It’s an old Niagara Falls trick.

Baby steps, boys and girls.

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