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Commission Recommends Cost Savings for Niagara Falls

By Eileen Buckley

Niagara Falls, NY – Another struggling city is searching for ways to cut costs. The "Who Spends What?" Commission issued a list of recommendations for Niagara Falls that could potentially save up to $15 million a year.

The "Who Spends What?" Commission was formed by the Buffalo Niagara Partnership at the request of Niagara Falls Mayor Irene Elia. It was designed much like the Partnership's "Who Does What?" Commission. That offered a number of cost saving recommendations to Erie County. The idea is to consolidate duplicated services.

Elia says recommendations to change health care insurance and merge the water and sewer departments would save $9 million. The recommendation says city employees and retirees should be enrolled in a "cafeteria style" health insurance plan. Those plans give workers more choices at a set dollar amount, but suit individual health needs.

Elia says they're paying some of the highest rates in the nation for health care -- currently $9,000 a year, per worker.

"We do not have the money to continue these health care costs," Elia said. "We need city labor unions to work with the city on these extremely important matter."

But union leader Dave Bathurst, president of the Niagara Falls Fire Officers Association, says they're reluctant change health care plans.

"Does it look bad or good, I don't know," Bathurst said. "No one has every dealt with it."

A recommendation to combine the water and sewer departments could lead to about 30 layoffs.

Mayor Elia says she will examine all departments for "over staffing."

The Commission issued 24 recommendations, including reducing expenses at the Falls Convention Center.

Mayor Elia says "fiscal stability" is the key to reviving Niagara Falls, USA.