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USA Niagara Funding Part of Falls Budget Battle

8:05 PM, Dec 1, 2012   |    comments
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Goat Island is between the American Falls (foreground) and the Canadian Falls seen in the distance.

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. -  There are some more budget battles in the City of Niagara Falls. Problems with the Senecas and the state still haven't been resolved and now there's a new fight on whether to fund a development corporation that's been key to improving the city.

The entity is called the USA Niagara Development Corporation and it's behind many new developments you see in the city. Projects like the city's conference center and major hotel developments probably wouldn't be here if USA Niagara wasn't around; and also the recently opened culinary institute, which has gotten much praise.

"To me [the institute is] going to be a catalyst for the city, hopefully that will bring in more establishments that will support the economy base for the city," said Deanna Brennen, the president and CEO of Niagara USA Chamber.

But, the city council is on a mission to stop any tax increase by making cuts to salaries, overtime and even crime prevention services. But, the biggest cut of all is to USA Niagara, which is supported by the state. The proposed reduction is $3.1 million. A local lawmaker tells 2 On Your Side that USA Niagara's budget is around $3.5 million and the cut would result in layoffs there.

"It shouldn't be read as an indictment somehow of the performance of USA Niagara, which I think most people in the City of Niagara view as being very, very strong," said Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster.

Council has been setting a different tone. According to Sam Fruscione, the chair of the Niagara Falls City Council, "this budget that we're working with here right now, is providing basic services with no tax increase."

Both sides have different visions for the city's workforce. The mayor proposes to layoff 20 workers and raise taxes 8.3 percent on property taxes and 5 percent on businesses. While, council wants to bring many of those workers back and have no tax hike.

"I would hate to see them decrease their economic funds to make up for the holes that exist right now," said Brennen.

Now comes the process of the mayor and council negotiating the budget details. The city's budget needs to be voted on by December 15th, while a contract between the city and USA Niagara expires at the end of the year.

As for the continuing battle with the Senecas, Dyster has had his first meeting with the new Sencea president, Barry Snyder. About $60 million is being withheld from the city. There are no details, just yet, on how the meeting between Dyster and Snyder went.

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