NIAGARA FALLS – State Sen. George D. Maziarz plans to post information about how the City of Niagara Falls spends its share of casino revenue from Seneca Niagara Casino on his office’s website.
The information should be up on the site, www.senatormaziarz.com, next week, he announced during a news conference Wednesday afternoon in City Hall.
He said he heard from a number of residents when he was campaigning who wanted to know what the city had done with its casino money.
“Clearly, I believe in transparency and accountability. I believe that the people of the City of Niagara Falls have a right to know where that casino money is being spent,” said Maziarz, R-Newfane, whose legislative district was changed to include the Falls at the start of this year.
Maziarz said he has an arrangement with City Controller Maria C. Brown, who will send his office spending information once it’s approved by the City Council.
He said his office also will be sending out postcards to all city residents informing them that this information can be found on his website.
The Buffalo News in November wrote about how the city spent $69.3 million in casino money from the time it started flowing until the Seneca Nation started withholding it in 2009.
After the city provided more than $20 million to other local entities as required by law, the city had $48 million left over.
The News’ analysis found the city spent the money on a variety of large and small economic development, public safety and infrastructure projects. The funding also was spent on a few large projects and otherwise sprinkled around to a variety of smaller community improvements, according to the analysis.
The News also published a list of expenditures provided by the city.
During a four-year dispute between the state and the Seneca Nation of Indians, the Seneca Nation withheld payments to the state, claiming the state had violated its exclusivity agreement by allowing racetrack casinos. The dispute ended in June.
The city, which was due roughly $89 million, finally received the bulk of its share last Thursday from the state, Maziarz said. The city had received a $1 million, up-front payment earlier this month.
After distributing funds to the local entities that receive a part of the city’s share, as well as repaying city accounts from which it borrowed when the revenue was held up, the city will have approximately $25 million left.
Mayor Paul A. Dyster released his administration’s 10-step plan for the casino funding in June.
Maziarz said he hopes to also post spending information from the other entities that receive a share of casino funds – the Niagara Falls City School District, Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center, Niagara Tourism & Convention Corp., Underground Railroad Commission and Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority.
A few of those agencies are not subject to the state’s Freedom of Information Law, but the senator said he plans to request specific spending information from them.