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Niagara Falls cutting back, as casino payments stall

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Niagara Falls officials are cutting back on spending, as the potential end to revenue from the Seneca Niagara Casino looms. The first casualty is summer road paving.Paving and repairing the city's tattered streets has been a priority since Paul Dyster became mayor. Streets are in far better shape since the beginning of his tenure, with much of that investment coming from the tens of millions of dollars flowing into the city from the casino local share.

Last year, the Seneca Nation put $16 million into the city treasury, with some flowing through to other agencies. So far this year, $4 million has come in and the hope is for another $4 million soon.

Dyster said there has been a cut back and dollars are being watched carefully.

"I don't think that we are at the point where we're cancelling capital projects as a result of this situation, but we're looking at all of our expenses, both capital expenses and operational expenses, and we're trying to be certain that a dollar doesn't go out the door that doesn't absolutely have to," he said.

That includes even taking a hard look at potential hires to fill existing positions. Dyster said other agencies are watching the situation carefully since some of the Seneca dollars flow through to them.

"Not all of those revenues stay with the City of Niagara Falls," he said. "We pass on revenues when we receive revenues to a variety of other stakeholders, including the Memorial Medical Center, the Niagara Falls City School Board, Niagara Frontier Transit Authority and the Niagara tourism agency."

Talks have been ongoing between the state and the Seneca Nation on revenue payments. The Senecas say their contract obligation to contribute casino payments has ended. New York State disagrees.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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