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NF City Council makes final decision on garbage user fee

Fee remains unpopular with residents but leaders say it's needed
Posted at 5:30 PM, Nov 21, 2019

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WKBW) — Members of the Niagara Falls city council have made their final decision when it comes to a controversial garbage fee. On Thursday the proposal passed 3-2.

The garbage fee idea was resurrected in September 2019 as Mayor Paul Dyster looked to close a $4 million gap for his proposed 2020 budget. It was estimated the cost would be about $250 per home using one set of totes (both green and blue), but that number has since decreased to approximately $180 per home.

Council Chairman Andrew Touma said the city would have to significantly raise property taxes, which he said have stayed the same for years, without this garbage fee.

"Therefore because of this deficit we have to go back to the taxpayers and say we're going to need your assistance, and if you want to maintain this service we're going to charge you a fee," Touma said.

The fee will be about $15 a month. Some neighbors, like Christopher Frank, said they're paying for the city's mistakes.

"This city has overspent for decades now, they don't know how to hold a budget," Frank said.

Councilman Chris Voccio voted no. He said he's not opposed to user fees, but said the city already approved a tax increase in addition to the fee. He said the city should instead cut spending.

"$4 million instead of the garbage fee would be about 4% of total spending, I am certain that we could figure out a way to reduce our expenses by 4%," Voccio said.

Touma estimated 60-70 police, fire, and public safety employees would be cut without the garbage fee. A decision that Mike Sillets, President of Local 714 Niagara Falls Firefighters, said would harm the city's safety.

"When they need us now we're there, if they would've made these cuts it might not have been the case," he said.

Discussions are still underway to develop a sliding scale for properties with multiple totes, such as multi-family homes or apartments.

The user fee will become due next year and will be included with tax bills.

Chairman Touma said the fee could go back to the council every year, and be eliminated in the future if the city finds other ways to make up the deficit.