The Niagara Falls City Council will debate Wednesday whether to cut its own pay – and that of Mayor Paul A. Dyster – by 10 percent.
Interviews with Council members indicated that the mayoral pay cut may pass, although perhaps not by a large enough vote to override a veto by Dyster. However, the Council pay cut seemed to be headed for defeat.
Dyster did not respond to several requests to comment on the issue.
The reductions, if any, would not take effect until 2020 and would apply to the winners of the 2019 city elections. State law prohibits cutting an elected official's pay during a current term.
The mayor is paid $78,000 a year and the Council members receive $12,000 each. The cuts would set the salaries at $70,200 and $10,800. The savings would be $13,800 in a $91.4 million general fund budget.
The proposals came from the two Republicans on the five-member Council, Christopher P. Voccio and Kenneth M. Tompkins. Newly elected Democrat William Kennedy II joined in as a co-sponsor of the mayoral pay cut, but not the Council reduction.
Voccio said he is presenting the measures in an effort to keep a campaign promise. He ran last fall on what he called a "10-5 plan": cutting elected officials' pay by 10 percent and reducing overall city spending by 5 percent.
"It's principle. It's leadership by example," said Voccio.
"It's more of a symbolic gesture than a big-money gesture," Tompkins acknowledged. "We have to make hard choices and we have to lead by example."
He and Tompkins also offered a resolution requesting all elected officials to voluntarily reduce their pay by 10 percent this year.
Voccio said he is already having the city direct 10 percent of his pay to the United Way of Greater Niagara.
Council Chairman Andrew P. Touma, who was re-elected last fall, said he opposes the pay cuts.
"I wouldn't have run on something such as that," Touma said. "Every penny counts, but I don't think symbolism means a lot to most folks."
He said during the budget process, no speaker at any Council meeting suggested pay cuts for elected officials. The Council's salaries have been unchanged since 2007, and the last raise before that was in 1988.
"I don't understand the logic to cut the salaries," Democratic Councilman Ezra P. Scott Jr. said. "I believe the issues we need to work on are the operating budget and the negotiations that are going on with the casino spending."
As the Seneca Nation insists it no longer needs to pay any share of revenues from its casinos to the state, the City of Niagara Falls faces a potential budget crisis, since it has spent almost all of the past casino payments that were passed on from Albany. The state and the Senecas are setting up arbitration over the dispute.
Touma, Tompkins and Voccio are co-sponsoring a resolution asking the Dyster administration to begin planning ways to cut city expenses by 5 percent this year and again in 2019.