This story about the lavish benefit packages offered to City of Niagara Falls employees is a must read. It highlights the "opt out" agreement the city has with its unions, allowing city employees who don't take the city's health insurance to take a cash payment of over $9,000. That would be $9,000 in taxpayers dollars. For not taking health insurance. For taxpayers in Niagara Falls, the opt out option will cost over $420,000 this year. No wonder the city is the highest taxed municipality in the state.
Paul Dyster, for all his rhetoric, has had four years to get this raping of taxpayers under control, and he's failed. The only downside to the article is that they waited until after the election to reveal their findings, or the revelations may have cost Dyster his narrow victory.
It's also amazingly hypocritical that Dennis Virtuoso, Minority Leader of the County Legislature, has never said a word about this problem during his 20 years in the legislature. In fact, when Virtuoso's buddy Jason Cafarella sat with him in the legislature, Virtuoso sat silent.
Cafarella's manipulation of the system could not have been more egregious. A Niagara Falls firefighter, Cafarella took the county health insurance. This allowed him to get the $9,000 cash payment from the city. But it didn't end there; Cafarella's wife is a teacher. Because hubby was on the county's health insurance, wifey also pocketed $9,000 in cash, courtesy of the taxpayers. That's a cool $18,000 for the Cafarellas for not taking health insurance. And we never heard a word from Virtuoso or any of the other supposed concerned taxpayers who speak at the meetings. Could it be because Virtuoso, a city building inspector (you can see the fruits of his labor on any street in the city) benefited from the city's opt out throughout his 20 years in the legislature? Maybe a that's a question worth asking.
It will also be very interesting to see if recently elected Jason Zona, a Niagara Falls firefighter who ran his campaign on the issue of high taxes, takes the county's health insurance, thus receiving the $9,000 opt out from the city.
Either way, this is an issue that needs to be addressed by the city. Taxpayers cannot continue to subsidize these outlandish benefit packages, especially in a city like Niagara Falls that is losing population by the tens of thousands. Of course, since Dyster is more concerned with a train station than actually making the city a better place to live, we won't hold our breath waiting for him to eradicate this outrageous expense.