Niagara Gazette —
"We had to make a decision this year," Choolokian said. "If you're a homeowner or a family guy you can't afford to raise your taxes right now."
Choolokian said if the city gets the money it is owed from the gaming compact, the council would consider restoring the funding, but that the city needed the state funding for other purposes in this budget.
The elimination of the funds from the city would not cause USA Niagara to stop operating, he said.
"They've got invested interests here too," Choolokian said. "The state's going to pick up their end."
Dyster said USA Niagara has been instrumental in the many positive projects that have transformed downtown.
"While I don't agree with the council's action and feel that it is short-sighted, I believe that the council's refusal to extend the agreement with USA Niagara, and in effect with the state, isn't any indictment of the great work USA Niagara has done for us as a city," Dyster said. "I understand it in terms just of their desire to simply get through one more year."
Several other notable cuts were made in the 150 amendments that the council passed during the budget hearing, which lasted a little over an hour. They include:
• reducing City Administrator Donna Owens' salary by $40,000, meaning that she would make $70,000 next year.
• reducing City Engineer Jeffrey Skurka's salary by $18,000. If the measure holds, Skurka would earn $77,000 next year.
• trimmed $600,000 designated for consultants in various departments in Dyster's proposed budget.
Members of the council majority - Fruscione, Choolokian and Councilman Robert Anderson Jr. - have publicly questioned the performances of both Owens and Skurka. Choolokian said the salary cuts were not political, but a reaction to calls that he has received from the public questioning salary increases at certain positions that have occurred under Dyster's watch.