As we reported last week, Niagara Falls city lawmakers were surprised by the hefty city hall pay raises for administrators contained in Mayor Paul Dyster’s proposed 2017 spending plan, and as Council Chairman Andrew Touma said on Wednesday, “it is not the right time for substantial pay raises,” given the city’s shaky financial condition and a brand new $43 million empty train station that still lacks a contract with Amtrak and will be a drain financially on the city until there is a deal.
While he stopped short of saying the proposed raises are dead, Touma said lawmakers have been hearing it from citizens who believe the raises, like the $18,000 bump for the mayor’s special assistant, should be cut back to where they were.
“We have to make the right decision for the public,” said Touma, who said last week that lawmakers had received no warning from the Dyster administration about the proposed increases.
Dyster has tried to defend his proposed pay increases by saying his staff makes far less than comparable administrators in the school district, but since many consider school administrators grossly overpaid, his argument falls flat.
The Niagara Gazette editorialized on Wednesday against the Dyster raises for the administrators, saying lawmakers “are right to be skeptical and should do all they can in the upcoming budget to make sure proposed raises for the likes of the city clerk, city administrator, assessor and the mayor’s special assistant do not find their way into next year’s finalized budget.”
As for the train station, no news is bad news for the city. The Dyster administration is reportedly seeking at least a 20-year lease with Amtrak but while Dyster has been saying a deal is close for some time, no deal has been finalized. Amtrak has said very little. Meanwhile, the city will have to bear the entire cost of maintaining the station that has no tenant.