Niagara Gazette

September 30, 2013

Dyster to present city budget on Tuesday

By Justin Sondel
Niagara Gazette

Mayor Paul Dyster will present his proposed budget to the City Council on Tuesday.

Dyster announced that he would be prepared to explain his budget by the Tuesday deadline of Oct. 1 during an administrative update at Monday evening's council meeting. He will give his presentation in city council chambers at 4:30 p.m.

"We will be able to present on time this year," he said.

Dyster presented his budget a month late last year during a planning process that was complicated by the city's lack of revenues from the gaming compact between New York State and the Seneca Nation of Indians and the delay of the approval of a back up plan that Dyster wanted in place before revealing his plan.

The city discontinued its practice of including most of the anticipated casino revenues in the spending plan as it had in previous years for the 2013 budget, causing significant shortfalls.

Dyster presented a "disaster budget," which included an 8.3 percent tax increase and over 20 layoffs, late because he was waiting for approval from the New York Power Authority's board that would have allowed the city to accept a lump sum payment of $13.4 million from the authority.

The deal would have accelerated 44 years worth of $850,000 annual payments NYPA pays the city as part of the 2007 relicensing agreement with the option of repaying the authority with no penalty after the delivery of the funds upon a result in the dispute between the Senecas and the state.

That dispute was ended through a negotiated settlement in June and the withheld revenues were delivered to the city in August.

Dyster said the city continues to face structural deficit problems and the administration, the council and union leadership will need to plan for those issues as the tax base slowly grows.

"We're not going to be running at a surplus anytime soon," the mayor said.

Council Chairman Glenn Choolokian said he was glad to hear that Dyster would present the budget on time this year.

"It gives us more time as a council to look at it and to come up with creative ideas,"Choolokian said.

Last year the city council avoided raising taxes and significant layoffs in the adopted budget through amendments, the most significant of which was the decision to keep $3.1 million in state aid that had been passed through to USA Niagara Development Corp. since the state's local economic development arm was created.

Choolokian said he will not accept any tax hikes or layoffs in this year's budget.

"It's an older city so we definitely need the services, but we can't afford no more taxes," Choolokian said.