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Petition seeks state funds for NFTA

More than 450 people signed a petition over the Christmas weekend to restore $10 million in state aid to the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority to preserve full Metro Bus service in Erie and Niagara counties.

State Sen. Mark J. Grisanti, R-Buffalo, said Tuesday he hopes to collect more than 1,000 signatures in coming weeks on his online petition.

The NFTA has announced plans to eliminate about 22 percent of its bus routes and to lay off about 20 of its 100 police officers in order to close a $14.5 million deficit in its budget for the year beginning next April 1.

The authority has asked state officials to restore at least $10 million of the proposed cuts in its state operating subsidy in order to maintain full service for the coming year.

"I understand that we need to cut government spending and although I will be fighting to restore $10 million to the NFTA for vital services, it is still up to the NFTA to have a structurally balanced budget without having to reduce services or the presence of law enforcement," Grisanti said.

NFTA Chairman Henry M. Sloma said he was cautiously optimistic that additional funding would be found before April 1 to head off at least some of the planned cuts.

Grisanti's district represents the cities of Niagara Falls and Tonawanda, the Town of Grand Island and parts of the northern and eastern sections of Buffalo, all of them served by MetroBus routes.

The shape of his district is likely to be changed, however, in a statewide redistricting in the coming year.

Grisanti has joined Assemblywoman Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes, D-Buffalo, and Assemblyman Dennis H. Garbyszak, D-Cheektowaga, in writing to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in support of the $10 million in operating aid requested by the NFTA.