Now that the casino cash has flown the coop the chickens are coming home to roost

And so it begins. As the reality of the city debt and deficit sinks in – combined with the fact that the casino revenue is currently exhausted and dwindling for the coming years – city hall is frantically searching for ways to stem the tide of rapidly rising red ink.

Parking meters that will cost more to administer than return in profit are on Mayor Paul Dyster’s drawing board for an installation by Memorial Day. The parking plan cost over $100,000 and the bare minimum installation charge for the first wave of meters will cost at least $350,00. To this you can add the stipends, overtime, equipment, pay raises and the Dyster-Touma parking initiative is a guaranteed money loser.

This week the raising of Hyde Park golf fees had the Facebook community buzzing. No sooner had council chairman Andrew Touma proposed a hike in golf fees than an effort to demonize the Hyde Park golfers had begun. The question as to whether the fees legitimately needed  an upward adjustment was lost in the weeds straight out of the gate because – this being Niagara Falls politics – a group of residents (golfers in this instance) had to be attacked and vilified. To that end the golfers were essentially called retired, cheapskate, former government employees looking for low cost recreation at taxpayer expense.

Lost in the demonization of the golfers is the reality that the Dyster administration has spent the city into the place at which it now finds itself: A fiscal quagmire so deep and dark and real that all the higher golf fees and all the parking meters this side of Mars will not, cannot, repair the financial damage. Also lost in the debate is the fact that the mayor sunk hundreds of thousands of dollars into a clubhouse roof repair and then recommended that $320,000 in casino funds be spent on golf course cart paths.

The financial advisory panel can recommend higher recreation fees, higher property taxes through property reassessment and install parking meters from one end of the city to the other…but none of this will counter eight years of wasteful Dyster administration spending. The hard truth is that the city is in debt to a tune of $65 million. The current budget deficit is at least $7.8 million, the casino revenue is exhausted, and the city’s annual share of that revenue continues to fall, each quarter.

The Dyster fiscal chickens have come home to roost and no amount of cosmetic tinkering with “revenue enhancers” will even begin to repair the damage done.


Artist’s conception: Chicken, coming home to roost, advises Mayor Paul Dyster on fiscal conservancy. [not a real photo].

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