As the city’s share of revenue from the Seneca Niagara Casino continues to plummet, Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster and the city Council are being faced with harsh realities they didn’t want to talk about during the election season.
And the result will be higher taxes and an onerous city “parking plan” designed to do nothing more than bring in additional revenues. The Reporter predicted these results in the event that Dyster won a third term, and our forecast was exceedingly accurate.
The city’s parking plan has been in the works for years but was largely ignored in the run up to the election. The sure to be unpopular plan will certainly see parking meters downtown and possibly expanded along Pine Avenue and other business thoroughfares.
And taxes in the most heavily taxed municipality in the entire state will most likely take a jump.
Councilman Andrew Touma has proposed a citywide reassessment that would result in properties being taxed at 100 percent of their assessed value.
Residential parcels in the city are currently assessed at 83 percent of their value, while some commercial properties are assessed at roughly 60 percent. The Falls, according to the city’s most recent budget reports, presently list residential property at $876.49 million value and its commercial property at $398.42 million value.
Touma’s proposal would see tax assessments jump on average from between 17 and 40 percent. If tax rates remain constant the increased taxes based on higher assessments will undoubtedly result in closed businesses and an increase in the population exodus the city has been experiencing for more than 50 years.
The immediate problem, according to Dyster and Touma, is the dwindling revenue generated by the city’s share of slot machine revenue generated at the Seneca Niagara Casino
The city took in $21.6 million in 2012; $20.1 million in 2013; and $18.6 million in 2014. If the trend continues the city will receive roughly $17 million in 2015, a cumulative drop of $4.6 million by year’s end.
Some $12.5 million in casino revenue has been proposed in Dyster’s 2016 spending plan. Last year, $6.6 million in casino revenue was injected into the city’s general fund.
Dyster said Friday that it is his administration’s expectation that casino funds will eventually plateau at a nominal, recurring amount. At what value and when, Dyster said, is still uncertain.
“Economic growth is occurring in this market and we’re going to see a growth in tax revenue that, in the long run, will make it possible to run city government without reliance on casino revenues,” he said.
Dyster and Touma made no mention of the fact that much of the nearly $200 million the city has received since the casino opened was spent on things like a concert series for the Hard Rock Café, a Holiday Market few people went to, new habitat for the city’s penguin population at the Aquarium of Niagara and a laundry list of other so-called economic development schemes that frequently rewarded wealthy developers who often over-promised and under delivered.
You read it here first. We wrote repeatedly that casino cash would drop as more casinos opened up in the Northeast.
We wrote that Dyster’s reelection would result in higher taxes and a parking plan that will actually constitute a hidden tax for city residents but be promoted as a way to get tourists to leave more of their money here.
We must be psychic.