NIAGARA FALLS – City lawmakers tinkered with Mayor Paul A. Dyster’s proposed budget Monday night, making changes to several salaries of top administration officials.
The City Council approved overall cuts of about $150,000 in next year’s proposed $96 million spending plan, changes that are subject to the mayor’s veto.
The modifications would not materially change the proposed tax rates – which would be virtually the same as the current rates – if they end up being part of the final budget, City Controller Maria C. Brown said.
The four Council members who were present agreed to set City Administrator Donna D. Owens’ salary for next year at $75,000 – $5,000 more than her current salary.
That pay level is less than the $110,000 that Dyster sought, which is what Owens had been receiving when she was hired but which was cut by the Council in this year’s budget.
Each of the lawmakers at the meeting – Councilman Robert A. Anderson Jr. was absent from the meeting because he had the flu, Chairman Glenn A. Choolokian said – also agreed to raises for Police Superintendent E. Bryan DalPorto and Fire Chief Thomas Colangelo.
Both are on track to make $107,000 next year, as Dyster said he supports the raises.
DalPorto’s raise would be about $20,000 and Colangelo’s roughly $21,000.
A proposal to cut the salary of the city engineer – a position currently vacant – from $95,500 to $76,481 failed to gain approval, as the vote was split, 2-2, with Choolokian and Councilman Samuel F. Fruscione voting to make the cut, while Councilwoman Kristen M. Grandinetti and Councilman Charles A. Walker voted to sustain the higher level proposed by the mayor.
Lawmakers also rejected the mayor’s proposal to fund the currently vacant job of director of business development.
Funding for a grant-writer also remains in the budget after a 2-2 vote.
As for the changes made by the Council on Monday, the mayor called the results “a mixed bag.”
Dyster said he was happy to see the grant-writing and engineer funds remain but was disappointed that the business-development position was not funded.
In the proposed budget issued Oct. 1 that he described as having “essentially zero increase,” Dyster offered a spending plan that would raise the residential property tax rate by 0.03 percent, while the business tax rate would fall by about 0.01 percent.
Other budget changes included the elimination of some stipends for employees and a crew leader job in the city’s central garage.
Choolokian said he was “very happy with the direction we went.”
Also on Monday, lawmakers shot down payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreements, or PILOTs, for two housing development projects.
The Council rejected proposed PILOTs for the Niagara City Lofts project in the former South Junior High School proposed by CB Emmanuel Realty, as well as the Walnut Avenue homes project proposed by Housing Visions, a Syracuse-based nonprofit. Both developers said Monday night that the rejection does not mean the projects are dead.
A third PILOT, for Norstar Development USA’s $16 million Cornerstone Townhome project at the site of Applewalk Apartments, was approved.
Choolokian, who has said he opposes public subsisides in all cases, voted against each of the three agreements.