Local News Headlines

Chautauqua County remains under a Lake Effect Snow Warning through late Wednesday morning with frigid temperatures... and, blowing and drift snow predicted -- especially in the north county.  Forecaster Dave Zaff with the National Weather Service in Buffalo says the warning remains in effect through 10 AM Wednesday.  Zaff says a cold front moved through the region early last evening... with temperatures falling from the mid-30s in the late afternoon... to about 15 at Midnight.  He adds, though, that this kind of weather isn't completely unusual for November. We will see another 3 to 6 inches of lake effect snow through the day today... with winds blowing at about about 25 to 30 MPH.  We may see gusts of just over 40... and, that will add up to driving difficulties today -- especially from north to south.  Zaff adds the Thruway will likely be "a mess."  By the time the lake effect ends early Wednesday... he says the Dunkirk-Fredonia and Silver Creek areas may see about two-feet of new snow. 

 

Winter weather conditions have forced authorities to close down Interstate 90 from Dunkirk to Henrietta in the Rochester Area.  A band of lake effect snow is right over that stretch of road bringing with it white out conditions.  There are travel bans and  advisories in place for all of Erie County.

 

City lawmakers have found just over 603-thousand dollars in additional savings in the 2015 budget... but, it won't be applied to lowering taxes.  Comptroller Joe Bellitto say the funding is money that is owed on borrowing the city did several years ago on the new Cherry Street Ramp.  Bellitto says the city was able to re-finance the bonding... but, added at Monday night's budget session that he omitted the payment because he wasn't clear if the money was to be paid back in 2015 or 2016.  After learning it was... he began looking for added spending cuts and revenues to get the budget back below the state's 2-percent property tax cap. City Council Finance Committee Chairman Tony Dolce says using the additional fund balance brings the amount left "precariously low."  Dolce says city officials knew the payment was going to have to be made... the question was when.  He says there are two pieces of bad news... including the additional use the fund balance.  With that... Bellitto suggested any additional cuts or savings that are found by lawmakers should be applied to rebuilding the city's fund balance.  He proposed a list of 357-thousand dollars in added revenues... and, 245-thousand in budget cuts.  Bellitto says "some are attainable, some push the envelope." The moves would keep the tax levy increase at just over 346-thousand dollars... which is a 2.35-percent increase.  That translates to a 63-cent per thousand full value tax rate increase.

 

The City Council took some flack for requesting a 482-thousand dollar dividend payment from the Board of Public Utilities for the 2015 budget proposal.  During last night's public hearing, prior to the final budget session, Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce Director Todd Tranum called it an "act of desperation" to take the surplus funds the past two years... and, to propose using them to plug a budget deficit again this year. Tranum adds that's in addition to the more than 4-million dollars in the city receives from the BPU in Payment-in Lieu-of-Tax agreements with the city-owned utility.  Several councilmembers took exception to the comments... including Council President Greg Rabb... who says he doesn't view this as "taking money from the BPU."  Rabb says the utility is "part of the city" -- and simply using what's "ours" to help balance the budget, and hold down taxes.  Finance Committee Chairman Tony Dolce expressed frustration over the comments... saying there had been previous meetings with officials -- including BPU members -- regarding proposals they've had for cutting the budget.  However... Dolce says many are "unattainable... or illegal." 

 

The head of the state's public university system says she doesn't want a raise at the moment.  State University of New York Chancellor Nancy Zimpher wrote to the SUNY board chairman late this past week saying that she appreciates that the board has considered increasing her pay... but would decline a change in her compensation package.  State records show Zimpher was paid a total of 658-thousand dollars last year... including a base salary of 490-thousand dollars.

 

Local Congressman Tom Reed is calling on members of the Senate to take a vote on the Keystone XL Pipeline that will bring Canadian crude oil through the U-S.  Reed was among the large, bi-partisan majority in the House that voted in favor of building the pipeline late last week.  The Corning Republican says it's the "right policy" to secure America's energy security. However... opponents say the number of new jobs... estimated at just over 40-thousand... are overstated.  They also say the United States won't benefit from the gasoline and oil that's ultimately produced.  Reed says he disgrees.  There's also word today that there aren't enough votes in the Senate to bring the measure to the Senate floor, and pass it.  He says Louisiana Democrat, Mary Landreux, has said she'll bring it to the floor. Reed says the Keystone Pipeline has been discussed for the past five years... and, he feels opponents are just being political in opposing it's construction.  He made his comments during his weekly telephone Confrence Call with Southern Tier Media.

 

The Republicans who control the state Senate say they want to continue their unusual coalition with a splinter faction of Democrats.  Republican Senate Leader Dean Skelos made the announcement after a closed-door meeting of Senate Republicans Monday at the Capitol.  Skelos says he will discuss the specifics of the power-sharing arrangement with Senator Jeff Klein, who leads the five-member Independent Democratic Conference.  The Senate had been a coalition of Republicans... and, the breakaway Democrats.  But Republicans won the majority outright in the November 4th.

 

The Green Party candidate who placed third in this month's New York governor's race says voting trends show his party has a promising future.  Howie Hawkins received 176-thousand votes to get 4.75-percent of the total in the November 4th election.  That's up from 60-thousand votes he received when he ran for governor in 2010.  Hawkins tells the A-P that low voter turnout in New York and around the country shows there's room for an alternative to the major parties.