Chris’s Corner: A Plan for Niagara Falls

Please click the link below to subscribe to a FREE PDF version of each print edition of the Niagara Reporter


Councilman Chris Voccio


By: Chris Voccio

Niagara Falls City Councilman

It was just over a year ago. I was a candidate for city council, sitting at a council meeting and listening to an auditor from The Bonadio Group give his report on the city’s finances. One line, in the form of a question, struck me: “Does the city have a plan?”

He was alluding to our deteriorating financial condition and bond ratings and how the city lacked a plan to get out of the mess we were in, and remain in to this day. I was pleased to see the Niagara Gazette, when reporting on that meeting, quoted the auditor: “I think the issue is, does the city have a plan?”

At our last scheduled council meeting I pointed out that here we are a year later with no plan in place.

I was recently talking with a leader of the group Reclaim Niagara, which seeks to keep some monies generated in the Falls here instead of sending them to Albany. When I asked how these monies would be utilized, he inferred city government would determine that. That concerned me. Government doesn’t have a good track record when it comes to managing finances, so giving us more money may not be a smart bet.

Meanwhile, the state and the Senecas are going through an arbitration process that may yield millions of dollars to both the state and the city. If that were to happen, the city could suddenly see millions of dollars begin flowing into the treasury.

So, if the Reclaim Niagara group were to be successful, or if casino revenues started to flow into our coffers, or if we discovered gold or oil buried under Hyde Park, the question remains how should those monies be utilized.

Here’s a three part plan to consider:

FIRST, let’s recalibrate the city’s budget so that it matches recurring revenues, things like property taxes, sales taxes, state aid, etc. Let’s use rough numbers and say that number is $82 million. (We currently spend closer to $95 million because we increased our day-to-day spending with casino monies instead of investing them in infrastructure, etc.)

The hard part, of course, is where to do we cut expenses. I’ve been saying the following:


  • Ask city employees for ideas to reduce expenses by 5%, which was part of my 10-5 Plan. (The plan was for the 5% reduction to happen in 2018, which would make cuts in 2019 easier.)
  • Negotiate with unions to have city employees contribute 25% of their health insurance premiums, which is still a bargain.
  • Negotiate with unions to change work rules that force up overtime or cause inefficiencies.
  • Consolidate departments as per a state auditors’ recommendation.
  • Lease the golf course to a private operator.
  • Resurrect the financial advisory panel, invite them into city hall, and have them vet all operations.


SECOND, when the “windfall” revenue flows in, we determine what it costs to service the casino, things like police and fire protection, etc., and put that amount into the budget accordingly. Divide the remainder into four equal parts. A quarter goes to infrastructure. A quarter goes to economic development projects. A quarter goes to equalize our property tax rates. And a quarter goes into a rainy day fund. These things live up to the principle of the original casino revenue law, affectionately known as 99h. (You may note that this plan is different than a recently adopted casino spending plan that was unanimously passed by the council. As I said during that process, I had issues with that plan but I viewed it as better than no plan at all.)

THIRD, hang out a sign in front of city hall that reads, OPEN FOR BUSINESS.

Of course, this entire plan can be summed up in two words, words that I used frequently during my campaign for city council: Fiscal responsibility.

Chris Voccio is a Niagara Falls City Councilman and can be reached at

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
1 Comment
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
.wpzoom (color:black;}