NIAGARA FALLS – A spending plan for federal funding in a city where more than one in five people live below the poverty line was put in place last week without much fanfare.
The City Council unanimously adopted a budget for next year for $2.7 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development through several of its programs, most notably the Community Development Block Grant program.
The money will go to things like home rehabilitation programs, new housing projects, youth mentoring programs and a new program to provide a uniformed presence downtown without using police officers.
Seth A. Piccirillo, director of the city’s Community Development Department, unveiled the proposed spending plan in late July after holding community workshops and releasing a survey to residents seeking input on funding priorities.
“The budget responds directly to public opinion,” Piccirillo said in a written statement in July upon release of the proposal. “Our citizens made it clear; they want to see bricks and mortar improvements in our neighborhoods that support home ownership, so that is what we are presenting.”
Since the spending plan was initially released, about $130,000 in funding was moved around upon input from Councilman Charles A. Walker, the only city lawmaker to submit changes to Piccirillo’s budget.
The changes, which were part of the package that the Council approved, include addition of $30,000 for a Niagara Falls Housing Authority after-school program; $30,000 in additional funding for the Highland Community Revitalization Committee; and an additional $69,439 to be shared by Neighborhood Housing Services Inc. and Center City Neighborhood for targeted home rehabilitation programs.
The funding was shifted from city street, sidewalk and lighting repairs; cleanup campaigns by the Department of Public Works; city funding for housing rehabilitation; and the Niagara Falls Police Department’s ranger program, which Superintendent Bryan DalPorto has said will serve as “eyes and ears” to help tourists, but at a much lower cost than having police officers do the job.
The budget allocates about $2.2 million under the Community Development Block Grant program, about one-fifth of which will cover the city’s administrative costs.
Administrative costs include contractual step increases in salary for Community Development Department employees, Piccirillo said.
The spending plan also covers $357,000 from the HOME Investment Partnership Program, which covers housing rehabilitation, and $155,000 from the Emergency Solutions Program, which covers things like emergency shelters.
Housing Visions Inc., a Syracuse-based nonprofit, will receive $300,000 for an affordable-housing project in the area of Fifth and Seventh streets.
The Isaiah 61 Project, which provides construction training for the underemployed and unemployed, will receive $150,000. The budget goes to Housing and Urban Development officials Friday.