NIAGARA FALLS – Mayor Paul A. Dyster gets most of what he wants in next year’s budget, but city lawmakers on Thursday took a couple of significant chunks out of the mayor’s wish list.
While most of Dyster’s 13 vetoes withstood City Council scrutiny, the Council set next year’s salary for City Administrator Donna D. Owens at $75,000, rejecting Dyster’s push to raise it.
Owens’ pay level for 2014 will be more than the $70,000 salary she is being paid this year, but less than the $110,000 she made when she took the job more than five years ago.
Dyster had vetoed the Council’s proposed cut, but lawmakers voted to override the mayor’s move by a vote of 4-0. In order to override a veto, a supermajority of Council members – four of five – was required. Councilman Robert A. Anderson Jr. was absent from Thursday’s meeting.
Lawmakers’ reasons varied about why they opposed the mayor’s push to restore the salary.
Councilman Samuel F. Fruscione said he does not think the administrator should earn more than the mayor, whose salary is $78,000.
Councilwoman Kristen M. Grandinetti said “clear communication” has been lacking between department heads and the administrator, which has led some department heads to seek help in other places, including from the Council.
Councilman Charles A. Walker said “it’s a job performance thing,” noting he does not believe $110,000 is warranted for how things are being run.
Dyster said it’s the Council’s right to set salaries for positions, but he believes he is the person in the best position to be evaluating Owens’ performance.
The Council also rejected a $5,000 raise for David L. Kinney, head of the Department of Public Works and the Parks Department.
Lawmakers also agreed to cut overtime in the Department of Code Enforcement by $2,000, and to replace a $45,000 crew leader/welder job in the central garage with a $30,600 welding post.
The Council also failed to eliminate a number of $3,000 and $5,000 stipends in the finance office, assessor’s office and Legal Department.
Overall, next year’s city budget will see tax rates for both residents and businesses virtually unchanged from this year. The $96 million spending plan increases general fund spending by about $1.5 million while using about $4.4 million in reserves.