Taxes In Most Highly Taxed City Just Aren’t High Enough, Dyster Says

by Mike Hudson

It was barely three years ago.

On June 13, 2013, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that a settlement had been reached between the state and the Seneca Nation of Indians that ended a long running dispute over the possible development of private casinos along the Niagara Frontier.

For his part, Cuomo agreed that there would be no private casino development in Western New York and extended the soon to expire compact between the state and the Seneca for another 20 years.

The Seneca agreed to pay the state and the local municipalities where its casinos operate the money they had been withholding as the dispute dragged on.

Local officials were ecstatic.

“This agreement is great news for the City of Niagara Falls and all of Western New York. It will ensure this much needed revenue benefits our city and this dispute is finally behind us,” Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster said. “We could not be here today without the leadership of Governor Cuomo.”

State Assemblyman John Ceretto predicted the windfall would help the city get back on its feet again.

“This agreement between the state and the Seneca Nation is great news for Western New York and Niagara Falls,” Ceretto said. “My top concern was that Niagara Falls receive the money that it is rightfully owed. Niagara Falls desperately needs this infusion of money to improve its economy and create jobs. This agreement accomplishes that goal, and I am happy to endorse it. The people of Western New York expect their leaders to get things done, and today, we have delivered results.”

And with that, the Seneca promptly wrote a check for $89 million and sent it off to Mayor Dyster.

Who spent every red cent of it. So fast it made former city controller Maria Brown’s head spin.

It wasn’t spent on improving the economy and creating jobs, but on plugging gaps the bloated monstrosity Dyster euphemistically refers to as a “budget.” The leftovers went toward such worthy causes as paying off an IRS debt owed by Community Missions, providing improved habitat for the penguins at the Aquarium of Niagara, building a playing field for the city’s growing population of cricket enthusiasts and buying some worthless Brownfield property on Highland Avenue for considerably more than the parcel was appraised at.

And just like that, the $89 million was all gone.

Now the city is broke again and Dyster has a new scheme. Residential and business properties in the city are currently taxed at between 60 and 83 percent of their assessed value. He wants them all taxed at 100 percent of their assessed value, meaning that property taxes will go up by between 17 and 40 percent citywide.

Officials have spoken about the unfairness inherent in the fact that properties in some sections of the city are taxed at a different rate than properties in another section.

There has been no discussion whatsoever of lowering the overall tax rate to soften the blow a reassessment will most certainly bring.

Dyster’s wanton disregard for sound economic policy is apparent in his squandering of an $89 million windfall over a period of just two years. To say he spends like a drunken sailor is to give drunken sailors a bad name. Is this the man the home and business owners of Niagara Falls want to entrust with between 17 and 40 percent more of their hard earned dollars than they’re already giving him?

According to a study by Market Watch published in January, New York is the most highly taxed state in the nation. And a study done last year by the Empire Center for Public Policy showed Niagara County to be the most highly taxed county in the state.

Far and away, Niagara Falls homeowners pay the highest taxes per $1,000 of property value in the county, which would make the city the most highly taxed municipality in the entire United States.

But that’s is obviously not enough for Dyster and Co.

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