Niagara County - Youngstown
You are here:   News

Latest News


Author: SuperUser Account/Tuesday, January 3, 2012/Categories: General

Rate this article:
LOCKPORT—Legislature Chairman William L. Ross, C-Wheatfield, is currently delivering the following
State of the County address at the Niagara County Courthouse. Tonight marks the start of Ross’s ninth
term as Chairman of the Legislature:

Members of the Niagara County Legislature, County Manager, Department Heads, County
Employees and Ladies and Gentlemen, I want to thank my Legislative colleagues for your vote of
confidence in selecting me as the 2012 Chairman of the Niagara County Legislature. It is an honor and
a pleasure to address you this evening on the State of the County.

I want to begin by wishing everyone in the Legislative Chamber and the outside listening
audience a happy, healthy and safe new year for 2012.

Tonight’s State of the County Address will review the Legislative Highlights of 2011 including the
2012 adopted budget, 2011-2012 economic development projects, 2012 goals and priorities for Niagara
County Government and the 2012 regional economic development programs. It has to be remembered
that the State of the County Address is a blueprint and there may be some changes during the 2012
legislative year.

There were several high points during the Niagara County Legislature’s 2011 calendar year.

The Redistricting process which takes place at the conclusion of a United States Census every 10
years had a new look. The Niagara County Legislature passed a resolution in December of 2010
establishing an Independent Redistricting Commission. It was a bi-partisan commission of five members
from different geographical areas of the county. The Redistricting Commission was sworn in during the
month of January, 2011 and completed its work in four months. It included informational meetings and
public hearings, which resulted in a few changes, which were acceptable to all parties.

We also aggressively handled a new Federal mandate. Narrowbanding is a Federal mandate for
counties which must be completed and operational by January 1, 2013. The early discussion among the
county’s Community Safety & Security Committee along with Emergency Management had a preliminary
cost of between 22 and 23 million dollars.

The Narrowbanding system would provide interoperability between all first responders in Niagara
County. It is a system long overdue for the safety of the residents of Niagara County. The RFP process
resulted in lowering the cost to $10 million and the recent announcement of a State Interoperable
Communication Grant of $2,000,000, along with Homeland Security money, will reduce the final cost to
the 5 million dollar level.

The Niagara County Community College Culinary Institute in downtown Niagara Falls is a 30
million dollar reality that will be able to service up to 1,000 students in the renovated Rainbow Mall.

Niagara Falls International Airport continues to be a highlight with air service provided by Direct
Air, Spirit and Allegiant. There have been several new destinations added, with the latest being direct
service to Orlando by Allegiant. The three parking lots at the airport are full, proving that this new air
terminal is a wonderful economic engine.

The Western New York Regional Economic Development Council consisting of Allegany,
Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie and Niagara County is one of ten councils that in a period of four months
from August to November, 2011 competed for millions of dollars for economic development.

Each council met in a series of meetings in their geographical area and constructed a strategic
plan and evaluated economic projects that were sent to them from the counties located within their

The Western New York Regional Economic Development Council, which included Niagara County,
was a big winner in the top four councils and received $100.3 million for project implementation.
Niagara County was the recipient of $2,000,000 for the NCCC Hospitality and Tourism Center, $970,000
for the Niagara Falls International Airport Master Plan and money for projects in the three county cities.

There were disappointments in 2011 for Niagara County as well as for other counties in the State
of New York. The New York State 2% Property Tax Cap Law of 2011 puts popular restrictions on rising
local tax bills but provides no unfunded mandate relief for counties.

A Property tax Cap is an excellent relief for long suffering property tax payers, but the lack of
mandate relief creates fiscal problems for the 932 towns and 62 counties. The coming years, including
2012 will see personnel reductions and with this reduction in force, many services provided to residents
could be eliminated. There must be mandate relief and it must begin with Medicaid.

The Verizon Project in the Somerset area of Niagara County, located adjacent to A.E.S., on the
shores of Lake Ontario never came to fruition. This proposed project would have been a billion dollar
venue when it was totally completed.

The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA) proposed budget cuts reduce the bus
system miles which will adversely affect Niagara County riders, especially workers and students that
depend on this type of transportation. The Niagara County Legislature will urge the governor to find the
money to stop service cuts by the NFTA.

The AES Corporation is the highest property taxpayer in the county and would mean the loss of
120 good paying jobs. The $10,000,000 annual RGGI assessment by New York State and harsh EPA
mandates and directives bother me because of the great fiscal impact the closing of the AES coal fired
plant would have on Niagara County.

The Niagara County Legislature, working closely with the County Manager, his team, Department
Heads and Commissioners put together a good 2012 budget in a difficult fiscal year. There were
unprecedented challenges that impacted the Niagara County 2012 budget.

Challenges included the New York State 2% Property Tax Cap Law, the failure of New York State
to lift its burden on county and local governments through mandate relief and the ever-increasing New
York State Retirement System pension funding. Medicaid costs are the greatest problem causing a
property tax increase.

The 2012 Adopted Budget was aggressive and the department heads worked long hours to
successfully meet targeted reductions. The decisions made did not come easily and the result was a
balanced budget that responsibly funded necessary programs that are vital to the residents of Niagara

The key factors surrounding the 2012 budgetary conditions are summarized as follows:

1. Property Tax Rate for 2012 will be held to an increase of $0.14 or 1.8% per $1,000 of
assessed valuation. The average projected county tax on a property assessed at $100,000 would
therefore increase by $14.

2. The Niagara County’s Sales Tax Revenue is projected to increase to $58.45 million up
6.86% from 2011. Budgeted revenues from federal and state agencies are expected to decrease by $1

Niagara County’s government employees provide excellent services to the residents of our
county. These employees’ salaries and wages are being frozen at 2011 levels. We know that for many,
the wage freeze is painful. These employees deliver everyday and are one of the county’s great

The last few calendar years were tough years for everyone. The staff of the Niagara County
Economic Development Center was challenged to keep economic development in Niagara County moving
forward, despite the economic climate. The Niagara County Economic Development Center focused on
five areas during the last two years which included:

1. Creating and capitalizing on opportunities in these difficult times.

2. Strengthening N.C.E.D.C. outreach initiatives.

3. Closing deals and seeing tangible results in terms of capital investment and job creation.

4. Securing funds for local projects through stimulus funds and other sources.

5. Always planning for the future.

There were three areas to help Niagara County through these difficult economic times. 2010 saw
the birth of the Opportunity Zones, the continuation of the highly successful Empower Niagara Program
and the funding program for Brownfield Remediation.

The new Opportunity Zone Program the N.C.E.D.C. will run in conjunction with the three cities
will help provide incentives to the tourism and retail sector companies who locate in economically
distressed areas.

The Empower Niagara Program has been highly successful. This program is helping to ensure
that even small businesses will be able to take advantage of the benefit of low-cost power. A great
program, but Niagara County needs another couple of megawatts to keep it going. This Empower
Niagara Program has resulted in the creation and retention of over 500 jobs and a private investment of
over $10 million.

The Brownfield Program (Niagara County Brownfield’s Cleanup Revolving Loan Fund) will provide
monetary assistance that can be leveraged to advance brownfield sites to the next level of
redevelopment. These original BCRLF funds have been supplemented with a $900,000 grant through
the federal administration’s stimulus program.

These three programs are creating opportunities from Niagara County’s strengths in tough economic

The above three N.C.E.D.C. programs along with many economic initiatives have helped generate
economic development in Niagara County. These economic initiatives include:

1. Niagara County’s Economic Development Center, working with member of the
Niagara County Economic Development Alliance, will continue to administer the countywide business
growth & retention program in 2012.

2. N.C.E.D.C. will work with economic development partners to develop “shovel
ready” sites to facilitate more rapid site selection and project implementation.

3. N.C.E.D.C. facilitates Niagara County involvement in the Erie-Niagara framework
for regional growth by advising and participating on implementation actions.

4. N.C.E.D.C. continues to administer the Niagara County Microenterprise Assistance
Program to benefit low-to-moderate income individuals and small businesses with 5 employees.

5. Niagara Communities Comprehensive Plan 2030 was completed by the N.C.E.D.C.
in 2009 and subsequently adopted by the Niagara County Legislature. This plan addresses the goals of
encouraging desirable and appropriate growth and development.

6. The N.C.E.D.C. will work with the new N.F.I.A. Stakeholders Group to help market
the new Niagara Falls International Air Terminal and other economic development projects at or
adjacent to the N.F.I.A.

7. N.C.E.D.C. will continue to reach out to Canadian companies interested in a
foothold in the United States market by locating an operation in Niagara County.

8. N.C.E.D.C. continues to administer the Business Community Enhancement
Program in 2012. This program assists local business organizations in enhancing business districts by
offering grants for brick and mortar improvements.

The economic programs and initiatives carried on and supported by the N.C.E.D.C. and Niagara
County Industrial Development led to the facilitation of projects to the construction stage. The economic
development projects include:

1. Taylor Devices, Inc.                            $2,705,000                 20 new jobs created
2. Olin Corporation                                 $20,000,000               15 new jobs created
3. Gateway Harbor Inn, North Ton.          $4,484,000                 25 new jobs created
4. Frank’s Vacuum Truck Service, Inc.     $2,325,000                 15 new jobs created
5. Hampton Inn, Niagara Falls                 $5,000,000                 20 new jobs created
6. NCCC Culinary Institute                      $30,000,000               TBA

The following are our goals for 2012:

The proposed budget should always be working in the direction of less spending and lower
property tax while still providing county residents with essential services.

        a) Medicaid was the first unfunded and remain the largest mandate imposed on counties. 
        b) Eight other state imposed mandates that heavily impact County Property Tax.
        c) Pension Contribution from counties are out of control.

3. C.H.H.A.
The Niagara County Legislature will be privatizing Homecare Health Services in 2012 as a cost
cut saving measure for county taxpayers.

The Consolidation of various functions of county government is feasible and the consolidations
would reduce county costs.

      a) Federal Mandated to begin January 1, 2013 for wireless broadband communications 
      ensuing local control and interoperability between first responders.
      b) Silver Alert System.

The Niagara County Legislature strongly supports economic development as one of the best
ways to lower taxes and provide employment.

Agriculture and Tourism remain keys to Niagara County economic growth.

Niagara County government is the main sponsor of the “Jewel” of post high school education.
There are over 6,000 students who attend NCCC at reasonable tuition fees.

The 914th and 107th Air Wing which are located at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station. The
NFARS is the No. 1 employer and the No. 1 payroll in Niagara County. Niagara County must
retain this strategic and highly important economic venue.

10. The Niagara County Legislature, along with WNY State Legislators, urge the governor to provide
money to close the NFTA deficit.

The Niagara County Legislature has the responsibility of day to day operation of county
government which includes the guarantee of providing essential county services to the residents of
Niagara County. There are specific keys to be followed.

1. A majority caucus of veteran and like-minded legislators along with the minority caucus who
together want to solve problems and create good government.

2. A legislature that believes in teamwork and with legislators working together, compromising
when necessary, placing egos in check and limiting discussion to legitimate issues related to county

3. A Niagara County Legislature that believes in smaller government, reduction in property tax and
a legislature that will wisely use the available economic tools, techniques and resources.

The Niagara County Legislature using the keys they control along with the available county tools
can provide effective, efficient, and fiscally responsible government to Niagara County residents.

1. A County Manager whose professional experience and expertise is fully utilized.

2. County Manager’s team (Budget Director, Human Resources Director and Risk Management
Director), along with Department Heads and Commissioners.with Department Heads and Commissioners.

3. The Niagara County Administrative Code.

4. The 2009 Niagara County Comprehensive Plan.

As I conclude this evening’s address, one word becomes all important and it is communication.

The Niagara County Legislature realizes the importance of communication for our constituents.
This legislature will continue to support public comment periods at our scheduled meetings, provide the
published phone numbers of the legislators, legislator involvement in community meetings and events
and in some cases scheduled county legislator district meetings.

A Niagara County Legislator understands good communication can lead to a better understanding
of county government.

The Niagara County Legislature will continually work toward making Niagara County a better
place to live, raise a family and support more prosperous times in our Niagara Community.
May god bless Niagara County and its residents.

Number of views (1897)/Comments (0)