Falls budget may be delayed

Niagara Falls mayor Robert Restaino, shown here in this file photo, told city lawmakers on Wednesday that his administration may not be able to present the proposed 2021 budget by the Oct. 1 deadline. 

Mayor Robert Restaino told Falls city council members Wednesday night that his proposed 2021 executive budget may not be ready to be presented to them by the Oct. 1 deadline.

Members of the council expressed a willingness to wait for the budget submission in light of what was described as "the unusual circumstances" created for the budget process by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

"I think we all understand we're in uncharted waters here," Councilman Williams Kennedy said. 

Councilman Andrew Touma told the mayor he was willing to give him additional time to craft a budget that could have a deficit of as much as $4.5 million.

Restaino said he wanted to alert the council to a possible delay in the budget submission because city lawmakers are not scheduled to meet again until after the deadline.

"The budget is currently job one," Restaino said. 

The mayor noted that he and his staff have been involved in discussions on how to close budget holes created by a plunge in city revenues from various sales taxes and parking operations. The city's current parking revenue collections, for example, are 86 percent less than in 2019.

Restaino said he is hoping to enter into "additional (shared services) agreements that will hopefully avoid" dramatic budget cuts created by the revenue shortfalls. The mayor spoke specifically about challenges facing the Falls police department. 

"The superintendent tells me that the police department is working at a 20 percent decrease in personnel," Restaino said. "I'm going to be looking at the council to accept a budget to beef up our law enforcement capacity. We're either all in or all out."

Restaino also told the council that city cops are working in vehicles that are not in good shape.

"Some of them, quite frankly, are still on the road only through the magic of the department of public works," Restaino said. 

Council members also received a presentation from the New York State Department of Transportation on plans for a major project on Niagara Street from Rainbow Boulevard to John B. Daly Boulevard. The project, expected to start construction in June 2021 and last for two years, will see the current median on Niagara Street removed, the road resurfaced and narrowed and the relocation of a bike path along the roadway.

The DOT presentation on the project can be viewed by the public on the city's website. 

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