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Niagara Falls Council Warned Against Depending On Casino Money

niagara fallsNiagara Falls’ City Council has been issued a stern reprimand by The Niagara Falls Financial Advisory Panel for depending heavily on casino money for balancing its budget. The panel met the city council for a second time to reiterate the same message to the city council. The council had earlier been cautioned back in November 2015.

The panel’s Chairman Carmen Granto has told the city that if it doesn’t control its profligate spending, its access to casino money will be withdrawn. The money from casino which currently goes into the city coffers will be diverted to the general fund.

In a statement, Carmen Granto, Chairman, The Niagara Falls Financial Advisory Panel said,

What concerns us more than the dollar figures is that there seems to be a lack of urgency to address these issues. The longer you wait, the fewer options you are going to have and there will be more severe consequences. You have to do what is best for the city

He has advised the city council to renegotiate health care benefits with unions and give over control of the 911 services to the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office.

Another member, Frank Soda said that general fund expenditure has increased by $10 million, but the tax levy has improved only by $1.4 million. He added that the extent of casino money used by the city has increased from $4.3 million in 2009 to $13 million in the 2016. As an old-time member, he advised the city administrators to charge the citizens in line with the expenses rather than using casino money to manage the shortfall and to live on what the city earns. He has suggested increasing taxes for homeowners and businesses.

City Councilwoman Kristen Grandinetti has recommended that the city do a new reassessment study since the last one was poorly done. A major bone of contention has been healthcare benefits for Council members. The Council ended healthcare for future Council members but subsequently Mayor Paul Dyster vetoed it. The veto can be overturned only with a supermajority of four votes but the proposal failed once again after members voted 3-2 in favor of retaining it.

The Mayor subsequently issued a statement defending his stance saying that a fair and reasonable benefits package was vital to attract competent employees to the Council.

Councilmen Ezra Scott Jr. and Charles Walker were among those who voted in favor.

Canada’s casino industry has continued to do well in the midst of a global slowdown but the council has been cautioned to stop depending on casino revenue.

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