Niagara Gazette

Local News

December 12, 2013

Pair of city salaries again in the spotlight

Niagara Gazette — Mayor Paul Dyster is pushing for the city council to uphold two key vetoes, both of which failed during last year’s budget process.

Dyster has vetoed a cut to City Administrator Donna Owens’ salary and the elimination of a director of business development position.

Last year the council voted unanimously to cut Owens’ pay by almost 40 percent, reducing her salary from $110,000 to $70,000.

Dyster attempted to reverse the amendment, but the council again voted unanimously in overriding the veto.

Dyster restored her salary in his proposed budget for 2014. The salary was again cut, this time to $75,000, through a council amendment in a 4-0 vote. Councilman Robert Anderson Jr. was ill and did not attend the special meeting where budget amendments were adopted.

Dyster, in an written explanation of the veto, argues that cutting the administrator’s salary is unfair in that Owens negotiated the salary in good faith before leaving a position in city government in Atlanta and relocating to Niagara Falls.

“Not restoring the originally negotiated salary would represent reneging on the commitment that was made at the time that the current administrator was recruited as part of a national search, threatening her continuity in office and raising possible legal issues for the city,” Dyster said in the attached note.

In addition, the city administrator, who is one of only a handful of African American women in top administrative roles in the city,was hired at a comparable salary to scores of other top employees working for the city and the school district, Dyster said.

“For the record, 50 employees of the board of education earn over $100,000 annually for a total of over $5.8 million,” Dyster said.

During a phone interview Tuesday, Dyster said he worries that other college-educated African American women in the city will view the salary cut as a signal that they do not have room to advance their careers in Niagara Falls.

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