NIAGARA FALLS - After a series of budget hearings to cut some expenses from the 2017 Niagara Falls budget, city homeowners will see a budget that cuts taxes by two percent for homeowners and increases taxes for businesses by three percent.
- The homestead rate will decrease from $17.98 to $17.56, per $1,000 of assessed valuation, down two percent.
- The non-homestead rate (for businesses) will increase from $32.55 to $33.81 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, up three percent,
- The total tax levy is up 1.3 percent.
- The 2016 budget was $88.8 million and the new 2017 budget is $90.4 million, up $1.6 million.
City Council members held a series of budget amendment sessions throughout November to cut Mayor Paul A. Dyster's proposed $91 million budget.
Although a majority of councilors had a lofty goal of trimming the budget by $1 million, the final tally, after more than 60 resolutions were discussed, resulted in about $500,000 in cuts.
Notably cut were ten of thousands of dollars in stipends and raises, including proposed raises for a special assistant, which would have raised the current salary by $17,460 up to $58,000 as well as a proposed $10,000 raise for the city administrator, which would have raised Nick Melson's salary from $75,000 to $85,000.
Dyster, who had the option to veto the proposed cuts, did not override the City Council's actions and instead announced the budget process complete last week.
On Monday, following the City Council meeting, City Council President Andrew Touma discussed the budget.
"When we talked about a $1 million in cuts, we had the goal to save the taxpayers as much money as we could off the increase for the non-homestead (businesses). But it was determined that not all of those cuts were able to be achieved, so we compromised and came up with over $500,000 in cuts," said Touma. "We tried to squeeze in as much as we could."
He said these cuts maintain the services, without cutting jobs, decreasing the homestead rates and lowering the non-homestead rate proposed by the mayor.
The City of Niagara Falls still faced a $7 million budget deficit and will use casino dollars to close the hole. Dyster did cut the use of casino funds to pay for operating costs by $1.5 million, compared with 2016. The City Council and a financial advisory board had called for the city to wean itself off reliance on casino spending. Touma said they want to be able to take those funds out of the general fund and earmark them for economic development.
Touma said there will be more cuts to come in 2017.
"We are steadfast in our approach to cutting more expenses and cutting into that deficit we have. We already cut a half a million in the budget process, but we are going to cut more to move forward," said Touma.
Story topics: City of Niagara Falls