Niagara Gazette

May 11, 2014

Dyster wants Falls to take second look at financial restructuring board

By Mark Scheer Mark.scheer@niagara-gazette.com
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — City lawmakers will once again be asked to support entrance into a financial advisory program offered by the state of New York. 

A resolution calling for the city council to authorize participation in the Financial Restructuring Board for Local Governments has been placed on the agenda for Monday’s council meeting. 

A similar measure was defeated in a unanimous vote by all five council members last year. 

Mayor Paul Dyster, who is supportive of the effort to join the program, said he’s hopeful city lawmakers will endorse the move the second time around. Several other cities, including Rochester and Albany, have already agreed to participate. 

Dyster believes the program offers several benefits to Niagara Falls, including a review of the city’s finances by outside experts and access to grant money tied to the program. He stressed that the program is advisory in nature, and the city would not be obligated to follow any of the recommendations it receives.

“I think getting a third party evaluation of long-term financial issues while there’s still time to deal with them is just good planning and good policy,” the mayor said. 

Dyster noted that in anticipation of Monday’s council vote, he joined Council members Robert Anderson and Andy Touma in meeting with representatives from various city unions in an effort to allay any concerns about the potential ramifications of the program on unionized employees. Dyster said all three city officials attempted to reassure union leaders that interest in participating in the program is not aimed at municipal workers in anyway. 

Entrance into the program allows the city to undertake a comprehensive review of its finances and operations and allow state experts to recommend ways to improve the city’s fiscal stability and delivery of public services. The financial restructuring board would have the ability to offer grants or loans of up to $5 million for such efforts if the city agreed to accept its recommendations. Dyster indicated that those recommendations would be optional, not binding. 

“This is not a control board,” Dyster said. “It does not have any power to impose any recommendations on the city.” 

The city council will hold an agenda review session at 5 p.m. with the council’s regular session to follow. Both meetings will be held inside council chambers at City Hall, 745 Main St. 

Contact city editor Mark Scheer at 282-2311, ext. 2250.