<<Home Niagara Falls Reporter Archive>>



Back in 2008, when Mayor Paul Dyster insisted on a $110,000 salary for his new city administrator, Donna Owens of Atlanta, some insiders predicted he would seriously skew City Hall salaries for years to come.

And so he did.

Today there is an endless run on the bank and endless bellyaching, as those who don't make as much as Owens wheedle and connive behind the scenes to get what she got from the mayor.

The city attorney is now making $93,000; the city engineer is making $91,000; the controller received a hefty $8,000 raise in 2009 and now knocks down more than $80,000 per year.

Even a guy whose job it is to do nothing more than plan out an Underground Railroad museum -- Kevin Cottrell -- makes $74,800 per year.

Department of Public Works Director Dave Kinney recently said on Tom Darro's WJJL radio show, "I'm the lowest-paid department head in the city."

He received a raise last year and currently makes $67,000.

Funny, before Dyster made City Hall the super-expensive City Hall that it is today, the top person in the administration -- the city administrator -- made $60,000.

Most department heads made between $50,000 and $60,000 per year, which is more in line with salaries for a city this size.

Dyster has made the hallmark of his administration a certain kind of arrogance, an attitude of "I am above the citizens of this lowly place."

He has helped do the same for his top aides, making them much higher paid than any of their predecessors and the average citizens they serve.

With Owens' $110,000 pay ($160,000 with benefits), Dyster began the process of skewing pay upwards, making ours the most expensive City Hall in our history, to match perhaps the ugly fact that Niagara Falls is the highest-taxed city in the United States.

Niagara County residents carry the heaviest property tax burden in America. According to a recent report from the Tax Foundation, the typical Niagara County household pays $2,802 in property taxes each year, which equals 2.92 percent of the value of a typical home in the county -- $95,800. That's triple the national rate of .95 percent.

In Niagara Falls, it is worse. Values are lower and taxes higher than anywhere else in the county. Niagara Falls is the highest-taxed city in the highest-taxed county in the state, and of course New York happens to be the highest taxed of all 50 states. We're No. 1.

Normally, anyone would be ashamed to raise pay and raise taxes as Dyster has done since becoming mayor. Normally, anyone with an ounce of pride would hold the lid on spending, knowing we are the hardest-hit city in America.

But Dyster is a spendthrift -- a tax-and-spend-for-himself kind of guy.

Owens, an administrator of a city of a mere 50,000 people, is one of the highest-paid city administrators of a small city in the country. She gets paid more than the mayor of Buffalo or the Erie County executive.

Her record is hardly exemplary. She seems to serve as nothing more than a shill to get Dyster's campaign donors public money.

For his donors, Dyster secures grants, loans, fast-track approvals and contracts from the city, securing public money for private gain. Owens helps out.

One after another, campaign contributors get help from the city. Meantime, Dyster raised taxes this year 3.6 percent on homeowners and 4.2 percent on commercial properties.

An election is coming for mayor. There will be several candidates.

Are you better off now, after three and a half years of Dyster? Is the city better off?

Many of Dyster's campaign contributors, including many from Buffalo, are better off. They have been named in previous articles, with their contributions side by side with the amount of public money they have received from the Dyster administration.

We know that Donna Owens of Atlanta, Kevin Cottrell of Buffalo, lawyer Craig Johnson of Buffalo and his good friend Controller Maria Brown are better off.

But what about you?

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com April 26, 2011