Niagara Gazette — The City Council has imposed a freeze on non-essential services.
The council passed a resolution calling for a freeze on spending for items such as “consultants, engineering studies, training, conferences, travel, events, concerts advertising and all meals (including the city council’s meals) and planning consultants” by a 3-2 vote. Council Chairman Glenn Choolokian and council members Robert Anderson Jr. and Sam Fruscione voted for the measure while council members Charles Walker and Kristen Grandinetti voted no.
Choolokian said with so much fiscal uncertainty facing the city — there is $7 million in the adopted budget that is anticipated funds — the city has to do everything it can to prepare for financial difficulties as the year wears on.
“This year is going to be worse than ever,” he said.
The anticipated funds are set to be paid from the approximately $60 million owed to the city as part of the 2002 gaming compact between the Seneca Nation of Indians and New York state. The Senecas stopped paying the state in 2009 because, they contend, the state violated the compact’s exclusivity clause by placing “racinos” within the exclusivity zone.
The binding arbitration process under way that will bring an end to the dispute is expected to come to a conclusion by mid-year. Mayor Paul Dyster has maintained absolute confidence that the city will be paid what it is owed, though there is no guarantee that the arbitration panel will side with the state.
Choolokian said Dyster’s administration and the council need to come together to prepare for every situation, including a continued absence of the casino revenues.
“We have to work together because it’s not going to get any better,” Choolokian said.
A preliminary review of expense lines included in the adopted budget showed the city could save as much as $800,000 through the freeze, according to Choolokian, approximately enough to cover the interest payment for the $5 million worth of bonded debt tied to the public safety building on Main Street due this year.