Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster presented his proposed 2019 budget to city council members Friday at a special meeting.
Dyster’s more than $106 million budget includes decreasing the size of city government through consolidating departments, implementing a garbage user fee and cutting taxes.
Dyster proposed a budget with a $2.5 million tax cut or a 13 percent cut for homeowners.
“The reason we’re able to reduce taxes is because we’re shifting our revenue sources to include a greater reliance on user fees, specifically for solid waste,” said Mayor Dyster.
Dyster’s proposed garbage user fee is due to rising costs and he says residents will be dishing out $25 a year. The mayor says the user fee will buy down the cost to the standard household in the city.
Councilman Ken Tompkins is cautious about the user fee.
“The revenue he’s looking at is still coming off the taxpayer. How does the garbage fee change out, does the garbage fee keep going up every year? So many questions we have to ask and get answers to,” said Tompkins.
Some residents feel the user fee is just a front to collect even more money from taxpayers.
“The garbage fee is going to bring the city more revenue than the taxes were in the first place. You’re actually increasing our taxes, but kind of doing it in a slick way,” said Niagara Falls resident Robert Dusen.
Dyster also proposed consolidating government departments. Instead of laying off police and fire he recommends not filling positions that are already vacant to save money.
Dyster says the budget was made possible due to the state advancing $12.3 million to the City of Niagara Falls because of lost casino revenue.
Tompkins, however, questions whether the mayor is following the casino spending policy adopted by the council a few months back. The policy requires a portion of casino money to be set aside for the future.
He says the state’s money is to be treated as casino dollars.
“It was not followed in this budget, so how does he just override what we set forth as policy for the city and for the money,” said Tompkins.
Tompkins told News 4 he would like to reduce the budget by a couple million dollars and cut more city positions.
City council has roughly two months to finalize the budget before its due December 1.