Niagara Gazette — More than 100 people packed a standing-room-only Niagara Falls City Hall Monday evening to decry plans for funding cuts to two community groups and a Pine Avenue arts and cultural center.
After nearly two and a half hours of listening to more than 30 speakers plea for restoration of funds, lawmakers moved to trim the amount of city dollars dedicated to the Niagara Falls Block Club Council and Niagara Beautification, while eliminating $30,000 earmarked for the Niagara Arts and Cultural Center this year.
After Monday's meeting, lawmakers who supported the spending cuts said the moves had to be made to save money in a tight fiscal year that is expected to only get worse in the absence of any incoming casino revenues.
While he said he supports the work done in the community by each of the organizations in question, Council Chairman Glenn Choolokian reasoned the city cannot continue to support them "forever" and the time has come for them to find other ways to support themselves long-term.
"This budget has been one of the worst budgets in the history of the city of Niagara Falls," Choolokian said. "We were lucky to be able to cut the budget to no tax increase.
"I know next year's going to be worse without the casino money," he added.
The block club council, NBC and NACC have enjoyed support through various city funding sources for years. The NACC and NBC have received funding from city bed tax dollars, while the block club council has benefited from an allocation of property tax revenues.
While the council agreed to support all three organizations during deliberations over the municipal budget last year, members of the council majority balked at 2013 requests from Mayor Paul Dyster's administration to approve formal funding agreements with all three organizations.