Niagara Falls City Council Chairman, Andrew Touma has said that he will continue to move forward on his budget proposal to withhold the annual $1.5 million payment to USA Niagara Development Corp.
He has additionally proposed developing a three-year financial forecast for the city. Touma made both these suggestions at the beginning of the third term of the City’s Mayor Paul Dyster.
The USA Niagara Development Corp is a government body that operates projects to support the economic development of downtown Niagara Falls, which includes the growth of tourism. The payment made by the city to the USA Niagara Development Corp helps to fund the Conference and Events Center in Niagara Falls as well as the programming on Old Falls Street. In return, the city gains from the economic boost received from visitors who come to see these attractions.
Touma said that the primary reason for withholding the payout to the USA Niagara was due to declining casino revenues. The slot revenue from Seneca Niagara Resort and Casino located in the region dropped to $16.4 million last year from a high of $21.6 million in 2012, and dropped by $2 million from revenue posted in 2014. Under the current agreement, the city of Niagara Falls is authorized to receive 25 percent of the total slot revenues earned by the casino while the state gets 75 percent.
According to Touma there was no way to justify payments after the state’s refusal to help the city with further financial support in the 2016 budget negotiations. Mayor Dyster has asserted that unless the city receives a guaranteed minimum of casino cash, it would not be able to continue with its annual payment to USA Niagara.
Dyser and Touma have said that they are committed to providing a three-year financial projection for the city and will be updating records submitted to the state Financial Restructuring Board as part of the city's application for funding. Both measures have bipartisan support with Councilman Ken Tompkins expressing his agreement to the initiatives. He has infact called for five-year projections similar to what is developed in private sector.
USA Niagara chairman has said that he is willing to travel with city council officials to the state capital to participate in budget negotiations and make the case for the city to receive a higher share of casino revenue.