NIAGARA FALLS - The city's fiscal time bomb was temporarily defused Monday as Mayor Paul A. Dyster said he would wait up to two weeks to unveil his 2013 budget.
Dyster was scheduled to present what he has called the "disaster budget" to the City Council on Monday but told its members he needed more time to finalize the document in the wake of the city's worsening financial crisis.
"I have been working very diligently with the city controller, city administrator and all department heads to develop a balanced budget in these very difficult financial times," Dyster said.
"While many options have been explored and implemented in this process, I am not satisfied that all options have been exhausted."
The mayor said the decision to postpone the budget presentation was made Monday afternoon, and the city workers and union leaders who came to Council Chambers apparently did not receive the message.
Dyster declined to specify which options the city has left to explore but said the finalized budget will be ready by Oct. 15, the next Council meeting, or sooner.
"I'd rather get them a strong budget a little bit late than a weaker one on time," Dyster said. "The fact is that I need more time to complete the process and hope to have something for you at or before your next scheduled Council meeting."
The city has been struggling to close what Dyster has called a "multimillion-dollar gap" in the budget created by rising employee costs, a dwindling tax base and $58 million in unpaid revenues from the Seneca Niagara Casino.
Councilman Glenn A. Choolokian said he was "very upset" by the decision to wait another two weeks.
"This is unacceptable that you don't have a budget here," he told Dyster. "You left us out of this whole process."
The mayor said that Council members were invited to the summer budget meetings in previous years of his administration with the hope that the sessions would limit the number of amendments proposed by the Council.
But that process, which he said is not mandated by the City Charter, did not achieve that goal, Dyster said, adding that he decided to meet with departments heads alone to ensure maximum confidentiality as tensions heightened this year with the fiscal troubles.
In other matters, city officials expect work to begin this week on the long-delayed Lewiston Road reconstruction pro-ject.
The Council voted to award a $4.3 million contract to Accadia Site Contracting of Depew after previous contractor Man O'Trees of West Seneca failed last week in its legal attempt to stop the city from bidding out the job.
An attorney for Man O'Trees said the firm will continue its legal battle against the city over project costs, but city officials said Monday that construction on the torn-up road would begin again soon, possibly as early as today.