The loss of revenue from the Seneca Niagara Casino is taking a toll on the City of Niagara Falls. The latest audit by State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli's Office projects the city's fund balance will run dry by the end of the year.
According to the comptroller's report, from 2014 through 2017 Niagara Falls has been plugging its budget gap each year with about $9 million in casino revenue. And nearly $3 million in fund balance. Mayor Paul Dyster says, when the Senecas announced they were stopping revenue payments in March, the city instituted a freeze on nonessential discretionary spending.
"It helps us hold on to the cash that we have on hand," Dyster said.
The mayor points out that cash on hand and fund balance are different accounts. He insists the city has plenty of cash to meet its obligations. And he says there is economic growth in Niagara Falls.
"Our sales tax revenues, our bed tax revenues, our parking revenues, those as a group, are going up," Dyster said.
After the state audit the City Council on Monday night approved a new labor contract to help further reduce the city's costs. And Dyster says there's also lots of new development taking place.
"Generally speaking, I think there's a bright economic situation here in Niagara Falls. But it's also obviously the case that especially because of the situation with the Senecas and the state and their dispute there are going to be some difficult times to get through in order to get to that brighter future. But, you know, we've been through this once before. We're up to the task," Dyster said.
Governor Andrew Cuomo announced September 9 that he was resorting to binding arbitration to settle the casino revenue dispute with the Senecas. Dyster says an early settlement would be the fastest way to clear up the dark cloud hanging over the city's finances.