The Niagara Falls City Council voted to override all of Mayor Paul Dyster's vetoes to amendments to the 2020 city budget.
During a special meeting Monday, the council voted to overturn the vetoes that would prevented a number of cuts from being made as part of the city's $98.9 million 2020 spending plan. Of the 32 amendments which were originally approved by the council in an effort to close a more than $4 million budget gap, Dyster vetoed 10 of them. All 10 were overridden by the council.
More than half of the amendments dealt with cuts to overtime allowances and consulting budgets. Overtime was cut for the police, fire and code enforcement departments, and cuts to consulting budgets were made for the planning, engineering and law departments.
All but four of the vetoes were overridden with unanimous votes. Councilman Chris Voccio voted against the decreases to the three consulting budgets, while Councilman Bill Kennedy voted against overriding an amendment to eliminate an accounting position in the community development department.
"I think we're cutting altogether 18 positions, some of those are cuts through attrition, some of those are cuts through layoffs," said Council Chairman Andrew Touma. "We've cut 40 positions in the last three years, so we're trying to decrease government, we're trying to be more efficient and we're trying to be fiscally responsible for the taxpayers."
He said that between the fire and police departments, five jobs are being cut and said that the duties performed by other cut positions, such as the accountant in community development, can be absorbed by other offices.
The council has decreased the mayor's budget by about $350,000 Touma said, which will be applied to the city's tax levy. He said the council will vote Wednesday on "a shift" that would result in a 1 percent tax increase for homestead and non-homestead properties.
The previous proposal was a tax decrease for residential taxpayers, but an "extremely high" increase of 7 percent for commercial properties, Touma said.
However, city residents will now be required to pay a garbage collection user fee of $181 each year for residential property owners, which amounts to a bit more than $15 monthly. Touma said the fee for commercial properties varies depending on the number of totes required.
Dyster, who was not present at Monday's meeting, has said in the past that the tax increase, addition of the garbage fee and job cuts were required to close the city's sizable budget gap. Without the added revenue, the city would have been forced to chose between a dramatic property tax increase or mass layoffs.