Niagara Gazette —
City lawmakers on Wednesday cut Mayor Paul Dyster's proposed budget by $3.1 million while restoring jobs and holding the line on taxes for 2013.
How did they do it?
Mainly by eliminating $3.1 million in state funding earmarked for USA Niagara Development Corp., the state agency formed more than a decade ago to oversee development in downtown Niagara Falls. Funding for the agency was included in Dyster's proposed 2013 budget, as it has been in every city budget since 2002.
Council Chairman Sam Fruscione said the deal with USA Niagara has been going on for far too long.
"It appears at this point in time, from our research, that we were double paying on every single project," Fruscione said.
Fruscione said the state should be funding USA Niagara projects, not the city.
"The state's going to have to step up and do what they promised to do, which is they're going to have to invest in the city of Niagara Falls," Fruscione said.
Fruscione said Aid and Incentives for Municipalities, or AIM, funding from the state - the source of USA Niagara's city funds - is meant to balance the city's budget and for providing services to business owners and taxpayers. That deal will expire at the end of the year.
"We're now breaking ties," Fruscione said.
Councilman Glenn Choolokian said he thinks USA Niagara has made Old Falls Street "beautiful" with projects like the Niagara Falls Culinary Center and Conference and Event Center Niagara Falls, but that in a year when the city is facing such a large budget shortfall tough decisions need to be made.
"Again, why are we in this position?," Choolokian said. "Because the casino money didn't come yet. If we had the casino money, they're not cut."
Choolokian said the council's priority was maintaing services without raising taxes.