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Dyster: Niagara Falls budget squeezed by casino payments dispute

Niagara Falls Mayor Paul A. Dyster emphasized development projects during his State of the City address Tuesday.

But the city may not be able to carry out some of the ideas if it remains without casino payments from Seneca Niagara Casino. The Seneca Nation and the state are taking their dispute over the payments to arbitration.

"Lacking casino funds, we don't have a lot of our own moneys to put into incentivizing these projects," Dyster said after his 49-minute speech in Niagara Falls High School.

Dyster said he's planning a 2019 budget on the assumption there will be no casino money. If the state reaches a deal with the Senecas, he said, programs that otherwise couldn't be funded would be restored.

"I want to make clear that we haven't made any request to the state for some sort of emergency bailout," Dyster told reporters.

One immediate effect: There will be less repaving of entire streets as crews instead concentrate on filling potholes. About half of the paving work in 2016 and 2017 was funded with casino cash.

The lack of casino payments makes state funding vital for major developments.

"If we didn't have the Buffalo Billion, we'd really be in trouble," Dyster told reporters.

During the speech, Dyster said, "While we look forward to the resolution of the casino revenue dispute, and offer our good offices to assist if asked, our policy is to hope for the best but prepare for the worst."

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