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Niagara Falls Water Board’s consultant says it could spend $3M surplus

NIAGARA FALLS – The Niagara Falls Water Board got a black mark from the state comptroller, the City Council and the public in March for sitting on millions of dollars, while ignoring high rates and refusing to pay to fix pipes on 72nd Street which that had frozen two winters in a row.

On Thursday, a financial consultant the board hired told the authority that its accounting practices have been wrong since the board took over the agency from the city 11 years ago.

Randall Shepard, a partner in the Bonadio Group, disputed the comptroller’s conclusion that there the authority had a $6.3 million surplus, but said there was an extra $3.4 million in the authority’s fund balance as of Dec. 31 that the board could have transferred and used for other purposes.

Shepard told the board that the $3.4 million could be used to lower water rates, pay for emergency repairs or capital projects, and for other uses.

Board Chairman Gretchen Leffler said the board needs to “once and for all get their act together and move forward.” She said there was a lot of work to do before it implements anything.

City Council Chairman Andrew Touma, who sat in on the meeting said to The Buffalo News afterwards, “I think this shows that there were some issues with their transactions and it has been going on for quite some time. It also shows that they’ve had a balance sitting in their reserve funds for quite some time. We’ve had some major capital improvements that have been completed where the Water Board said they couldn’t contribute. I think they misled the public.”

Toumas also called rates “outrageous” and he’d like the authority to lower rates with this money.

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