January 7, 2009

Same Pact, Different Interpretation

As I have pointed out in this column before, Niagara Falls has no intention to use its casino revenues within the terms of the language of the pact that provides these monies. The casino compact dictates that the casino revenues shall be used for economic development. Niagara Falls has decided to use this money contrary to the agreement and in violation of its terms.

Now, I appreciate that Niagara Falls has immediate needs, but the intent of the compact was to help Niagara Falls invest in its economy and business infrastructure to pay dividends down the road.

According to the Buffalo News, nearly a third of the casino revenue over which city leaders have control has gone into the city’s annual budget.

That money has been used to pay for new debt the city has taken on in the last five years to pay for equipment and capital projects. City officials intend to continue to use casino revenue in the budget to pay back debt on an estimated $47 million new courthouse and police station now under construction.

Officials have also used the promise of future casino revenue to borrow another $11.3million for capital needs such as new police cars, snowplows, trucks, street paving and pothole repair since 2004.

Unfortunately, the casino revenues have done nothing more than remove the opportunity for the City of Niagara Falls to become insolvent and seek bankruptcy protection which would have allowed it to restructure its public employee contracts that will now continue be a burden to the city taxpayer.

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