With the support of a fellow councilman, Niagara Falls City Council Chairman Andrew Touma continues his efforts to push two budget suggestions; one to retain the city’s $1.5 million annual allocation to USA Niagara Development Corp, the other, to provide a three-year financial projection to the public.
The former was made public by Touma earlier this year at the beginning of Mayor Paul Dyster’s third term in office and was reiterated on Friday during an administrative meeting. Dyster said that his office is “fully on board” with the budget forecast, but that withholding the annual payment from the state-run USA Niagara is more complicated, according to the Niagara Gazette. The mayor said that support of programming on Old Falls Street and the Conference and Events Center Niagara Falls are both “principal” expenses tied to the yearly payment and that while the entity is subsidized, the visitors the conference center attracts and subsequent regional economic impacts offset the financial support from the city.
Mayor Dyster said that discussion regarding slot revenue from Seneca Niagara Resort and Casino, which last year just over $16.4 million was received by the city, down from $21.6 million in 2012 and close to $2 million less that it received in 2014, would be continued with state leadership.
The reason for the push to retain the annual payment, said Touma, is the continued decline of slot revenue received by the city. Touma said that because the prior proposal to renegotiate the state’s funding formula was shot down, the payment couldn’t be justified to the residents of the state. Under the current formula, the state keeps 75 percent and the Falls receives 25 percent of the slot revenue, while the push was for changing that to the larger percentage being sent to Niagara and the state keeping 25 percent.
Touma said that he would lobby on the behalf of the city in Albany with the mayor and his colleagues to increase the cash received from the casino.
In February, the Niagara Falls Advisory Panel met with the City Council to deliver a message, to stop using casino funds to balance the city’s budget. Some Advisory Panel Members said the casino money has been used by the city as a crutch; the last reassessment was done poorly and the more money that came in the more that was spent.