By Mark Scheer
Niagara Gazette —
Mayor Paul Dyster's administration announced Friday morning that a deal has been reached that will allow the New York Power Authority to provide the city of Niagara Falls with some much-needed financial assistance.
Dyster announced Friday morning plans for the power authority to provide $13.4 million to help the city as it deals with financial issues related to the lack of incoming casino revenue.
Dyster credited the power authority's board of trustees and Gov. Andrew Cuomo for helping to put the deal together and said that while the funding will change the outlook of the 2013 budget outlook for the city, "difficult decisions" will still need to be made in the weeks ahead.
"Many New York municipalities face economic hardship, but our case was special and needed unique attention," Dyster said. "The state is just starting a major recovery from Hurricane Sandy and government operations have been disrupted with previous priorities pushed aside to deal with the emergency situation. Despite all of that, Governor Cuomo made helping Niagara Falls a top priority."
State Sen. George Maziarz, R-Newfane, said the plan involves accelerating payments owed by NYPA to the city. Under the plan, he said the authority will make payments that it committed to provide to the city under the 2007 relicensing of the Niagara Power Project. Maziarz said the authority will convert an $850,000 annual payment stream that it would otherwise provide the city with over the next 44 years into an equivalently valued lump-sum amount of approximately $13.45 million.
"It should go a long way towards helping with the city's financial hardships," Maziarz said.
As part of the announcement, Dyster encouraged members of the city council to accept the power authority's offer. He said he will submit an amended budget to the city council for its consideration.
"NYPA assistance is critically important, however, it obviously does not resolve the ongoing issue with the Seneca Nation," Dyster said. "The $13 million spin-up does not solve all of the city's issues and no one is pretending it will. Arbitration is still ongoing and there are long-term questions that need to be answered. I am assured the state will continue to explore ways to assist the city of Niagara Falls and look forward to working with our state representatives in seeking solutions to the outstanding issues."
Dyster delayed presentation of his proposed 2013 spending plan for several weeks, insisting that he needed additional time to put together what he described as a "disaster" budget for the city.
On Friday, Dyster suggested the extra time was needed to finalize the power authority's assistance package. Dyster indicated that the deal was originally expected to be considered as part of the board of trustees' Oct. 29 meeting, but Hurricane Sandy forced the session to be cancelled, prompting Dyster to delay his budget presentation beyond the Nov. 1 deadline.
"I hope the council and the public now understands that negotiating this agreement affected the timeliness of the 2013 budget presentation," Dyster said. "If we could have announced this initiative weeks ago, it would have changed the budget projections and timeline."