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Niagara Falls Council eliminates 4 police jobs

It looks like Niagara Falls Mayor Paul A. Dyster will veto the City Council's decision to eliminate four Police Department jobs to trim spending.

And, it also looks like the Council will stick together to override that veto.

"The city can no longer afford the size of Police Department we have," Council Chairman Charles A. Walker said Thursday.

The Council unanimously adopted the city's 2018 budget with a tiny tax increase for homeowners and a larger one for businesses.

Police Superintendent E. Bryan DalPorto said the job cuts threaten the safety of tourists, residents and police officers.  The positions to be eliminated are now filled by officers who are taking an early retirement incentive.

"Any reduction in public safety, specifically police, is going to put a strain on my manpower, for citizens as well as visitors," DalPorto said.

He said he was confident Dyster would veto the police cuts.

"I do not see any hue and cry from the taxpaying public to cut public safety in order to save them a few dollars on their tax bill. Far from it," Dyster said. "If I were to pick the average man in the street's top priority for city spending right now, it would probably be public safety."

The Council chairman didn't see much of a chance of the jobs being restored.

"I think the only thing that's going to make us reconsider is if they tell us where we can get the money," Walker said.

Three detectives, a patrolman and a traffic officer are among the 12 city employees who accepted a $10,000 incentive payment to retire. The Council voted 4-1 to eliminate all of the positions except for one detective's slot.

"We put so much time and effort into rebuilding downtown, and we're going to cut public safety?" asked Councilwoman Kristen M. Grandinetti, who voted against the cuts.

She also called for property reassessment and a tax increase, accusing her colleagues of  "showboating to convince people we're not raising taxes when we should be raising taxes."

Councilman Kenneth M. Tompkins said it was pointless to offer a retirement incentive and then refill the jobs.

"All you did is give the retirees a gift," he said.

"They have too many police officers sitting in the police station doing office work. They've got to put them on the street," Walker said.

"That's a complete misstatement," DalPorto said.

Many of the officers at the station are working with technology, DalPorto said, and he noted the Council is shifting much of the responsibility for the city's computer system to the Police Department. The Council voted to lay off Management Information Systems Director Joseph Morock Jr., saving $92,000 in pay and benefits.

That was one of the 31 budget amendments the Council passed Wednesday, cutting the budget by almost $700,000, and almost wiping out the 2.6 percent homestead, or residential, tax increase Dyster had proposed.

At present, the homestead tax rate would rise 0.1 percent, or 2 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation, while the non-homestead, or business, tax increase stands at 7.7 percent. Dyster had proposed a 14.7 percent increase.

Tompkins, the only Republican councilman, suggested tinkering with the allocation of the tax levy to bring the business tax rate down further. The Council won't vote on that shift until Dec. 11, after Dyster casts his vetoes next week.

Adopting the rate shift would set the residential tax increase at 1.7 percent and the business increase at 5.9 percent.

The total tax levy increases 3.8 percent, exceeding the 1.84 percent state-mandated tax cap. The Council voted 3-2 to break the cap, with Tompkins and Ezra P. Scott Jr. voting no.

The budget counts on $11 million in Seneca Niagara Casino revenue.

City Controller Daniel R. Morello said $1.5 million will be left in that reserve fund by early 2018, but there will be no more casino cash unless the state wins an arbitration or makes a new deal with the Seneca Nation.

The Nation stopped paying a share of slot machine revenues this year, saying its compact with the state ended the payments after 2016. The state contends the Senecas were not allowed to cut off the cash.

Seneca Nation to stop $110 million casino payments to state

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