Niagara Gazette — Funds for the ZOOM Team, other clean up efforts in the Falls and a library floor project were cut by members of the city council majority to accommodate a $150,000 entrance enhancement project at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center.
The changes in the Community Development Department’s proposed budget were made by the council several weeks after department director Seth Piccirillo submitted his spending plan.
“This whole new budget was a back-door deal,” said Councilwoman Kristen Grandinetti, who is questioning the budget revisions proposed by a group of her council colleagues.
Piccirillo submitted his annual budget to the city council on Sept. 7. The council returned their amended budget — with numerous changes and added projects — on Oct. 22.
Council Chairman Sam Fruscione defended the budget changes and the process involved, saying he and his colleagues operated in a transparent manner.
“I made it extremely transparent by putting it on the Internet, as the council does with all documents,” he said.
A description of the budget process and the source of the funding for the projects can be found on the city council’s website in a document titled “Supporting Documentation for Council Agenda for October 29th 2012”. However, nowhere in the document is there specifics about the changes in funding.
Those changes include two projects added to the revised budget, including a $150,000 plan to enhance the entrance to Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center’s Hodge Building and $10,000 worth of funding to hire part-time teachers for the Francis Center’s after-school programming.
To accommodate those changes, funding reductions were made in other areas of the spending plan as originally proposed by Piccirillo, including:
• A $50,000 reduction in funding for the Department of Public Works’ Zone Outreach Objective Mission team. Under the amended budget the ZOOM team will receive no funding.
• A $25,000 reduction in funding for Niagara University’s vacant lot beautification project. That project would receive no funding under the amended budget.