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Facing Budget Crisis, Falls Waits For State Help | News

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Facing Budget Crisis, Falls Waits For State Help

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. - The City of Niagara Falls could be headed over the financial cliff unless the state comes to its rescue, and soon.

The problem in the Falls is so bad and so complicated that the city's mayor still has not submitted a budget, which was due October 1. And if that wasn't bad enough, some city lawmakers are now considering taking the mayor to court over it.

The city's financial crisis is years in the making. For nearly three years, the Seneca Nation and the state have been locked in a bitter dispute over casino gambling, during which time the tribe has withheld $59 million dollars in casino revenue payments to the City of Niagara Falls.

The battle has turned the city in a financial hostage, leaving it so broke that Mayor Paul Dyster has yet to submit his budget for next year, even though the deadline was nearly three weeks ago. Instead, the mayor is patiently waiting for help from the state as he hopes to avoid drastic cuts, layoffs, and possibly tax increases.

REPORTER: What are you going to do if you don't get any money from the Senecas or the state?
DYSTER: That's a hypothetical question that I hope I don't have to address.
REPORTER: But you may?
DYSTER: That's a hypothetical question that I hope I don't have to address.
REPORTER: We're getting, don't you think, a little dangerously close to where you should be prepared for that possibility?
DYSTER: We'll be prepared for any possibility, but that's a possibility I'm not going to comment on.

Dyster said the governor's office understands the seriousness of the situation.

But the Falls city council appears to be growing impatient. Councilman Glen Choolokian confirmed for 2 On Your Side that the council is considering suing the mayor to force him to submit a budget.

"I have received no notification of any kind from council that they're contemplating any kind of legal action," Dyster said. "I would hope they wouldn't. I hope they'd be team players in trying to bring this to a successful conclusion."

2 On Your Side spoke to New York State Senator George Maziarz (R-Newfane) about state intervention.

REPORTER: Is there anything you and your colleagues can do to put some pressure on the governor's office to give a loan or something else to the city?
MAZIARZ: I don't know that pressure necessarily has to be put on the governor's office. The governor wants to be helpful to the City of Niagara Falls.

Maziarz said the governor is considering either loaning the money to the city or advancing aid payments to the Falls until the state resolves its dispute with the Senecas.

REPORTER: Do you believe the state will be able to intervene before it's too late for the city?
MAZIARZ: I do. I know that the governor is extremely concerned about it, and I know that and he knows he cannot let the city go down.

We left a message with the Governor's office this afternoon, but have not heard back from anyone yet. The good news for the Falls is that the state and the Senecas have agreed to arbitration to solve the dispute. The bad news is that there are no guarantees they'll finish the process before the Falls has to pass a budget.


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