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Niagara Falls 2017 Budget Hearing set for Nov. 1

A Public Hearing for the 2017 Proposed Budget for the city of Niagara Falls will be held in the City Hall Council Chambers on November 1, 2016 from 6:00 pm to 7:00 pm. In reviewing Mayor Paul Dyster’s tentative budget, we came up with the following questions:

1. Has there been any progress signing up Amtrak and their $192,000 annual rent for the new Niagara Falls International Railway Station and Intermodal Transportation Center, as projected in the Mayor’s 2017 budget?

2. The budget is balanced thanks to a nearly $3 million general fund transfer. Is this a sustainable strategy for future fiscal years?

3. What is “Project GIVE”? It doesn’t come up when searching the city of Niagara Falls website. It doesn’t even come up on a Google search, yet it’s projected to bring in $85,500 for fiscal 2017, after having been zeroed out in 2015 and 2016.

4. Why has marriage license revenue steadily declined since 2013, from $8188 (2013) to $7295 (2014) to $5333 (2015) to an optimistically-budgeted $5500 for 2017? After passage of the NYS Marriage Equality Act, the city was supposed to regain its status as the Honeymoon Capital of the World, wasn’t it? How will the Niagara Tourism and Convention Corporation spend the $1.6 million Mayor Dyster wants to bestow on it in his 2017 budget, and why is it identified cryptically as the Niagara Tourism & Convention Ctr (perhaps intentionally confusing it with the Convention and Events Center, Niagara Falls)? Why is this line item for the NTCC buried on page 231 of the 238-page document?

5. Why has revenue from NYPA relicensing plummeted from $985,370 (2014) to $576,208 (2015) to a budgeted $500,000 for fiscal year 2017?

6. Why all the City Hall pay raises? Especially a $10,000 raise for the City Forester, from $44,570 to $54,002? Are they appropriate for a city that had to recently convene a special Niagara Falls Financial Advisory Panel to grapple with its financial challenges?

7. Over $315,000 annually in “Uniform allowance” expenses since 2014, including $339,015 for 2017? What are these uniforms, disposable?

8. Over $10 grand for “overtime meals”?

9. Why is there a 2017 “Transfer to Golf Course” of $411,372? Does the City Charter call for a golf course? Couldn’t a golf course be better run if privatized?

10. Given that we’re the highest-taxed city in the state, and maybe the nation, why can’t we cut expenses, instead of always raising taxes?

Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster presents his 2017 budget to the public and the City Council last month, big on spending and gimmicks, as usual.

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