Mayor Restaino’s Budget Includes Tax Hike for Businesses

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the highest property taxes in the nation for a metropolitan sized city is Rochester, NY at a 2.4% effective rate. Interestingly, the average property tax rate in Niagara County is 2.89%. Niagara Falls residents have the highest city property tax rate of any municipality in the county.

We are also the only municipality in the county with a two-tier tax system, and businesses pay more than double the residential tax rate. Aside from the crime, this is one reason why so many businesses flee our city. It’s truly difficult to survive in Niagara Falls, where the average household income fluctuates between $40,000 and $50,000 (depending on the source), and the poverty rate is close to 25%. The costs of living are way too high for an impoverished community that’s buried under exorbitant electric and water bills, and garbage fees. All of this adds up to a city that is unfriendly to business, resulting in old businesses leaving and difficulty attracting new businesses.

The City of Niagara Falls, NY is home to about 48,000 people. Niagara Falls isn’t really considered a city – it’s actually considered an “urban area” due to the fact that the population is under 50,000. 

Mayor Restaino has stated publicly that business tax rates and residential tax rates should be equalized, but in his latest budget he raised business tax rates, effectively increasing the gap between the two by a record 108% higher for business taxes. This is an anti-business mindset that will scare away new businesses while suffocating old ones.

It’s important to note that there is still time for residents to testify at budget meetings.

Mayor Restaino’s 2024 budget, essentially an election year stunt, was yet another anti-business slight which attempts to balance the budget on the backs of business owners.

While some businesses are receiving grants, such as Archives on Third Street where the mayor held his victory party on election night, other businesses are not so lucky. The determining factor between which businesses receive assistance and which ones are left to struggle for themselves seems to be whoever supports the mayor and his agendas.

One business which hasn’t received assistance is Swimmin’ With The Fishes, located at 7724 Buffalo Avenue. Recently, frustration led to the owner of the business sharing this public post on Facebook:

Pete Murray, the owner of Swimmin’ With The Fishes, spoke with the Reporter. He told the Reporter that he notified the city that the city-owned sidewalk in front of his business was broken and unsafe. He was worried that someone would hurt themselves and if they did, his business would surely be liable.

After several requests, the city did send out an inspector to look at the sidewalk. The inspector deemed the sidewalk safe despite Mr. Murray’s pleas for help. Mr. Murray told the Reporter that it doesn’t help the matters that the person whose job it is to make the final determination is a former tenant of his who owes him money. He was denied assistance by the city to fix the sidewalk.

Mr. Murray was forced to pay $10,000 of his own money to fix the city-owned sidewalk. 

Another business owner who wished to remain anonymous contacted the Reporter, saying that they chose anonymity because they didn’t want to have “a brick thrown through my window.” This individual told the Reporter that they purchased two properties on Main Street a few years ago after it was announced that the city received grant money to help businesses on Main Street. The business owner has attempted several times to win the mayor’s favor while applying for grants, only to be denied repeatedly. 

Another individual, also speaking anonymously, contacted the Reporter regarding the conditions of the city-owned sidewalks and streets in her neighborhood. She told the Reporter that she spent $3,000 replacing her driveway, which included the city-owned apron, after the city was unresponsive to her claims and those of her neighbors.

Just two weeks prior to the election, the sidewalks and streets in her neighborhood were being paved without any notice. 

“All of a sudden there’s a boatload of roadwork getting done. I’ve never seen so much of this at one time,” she said.

She continued, “We’ve had multiple complaints on our street because the sidewalks were terrible. It’s been years since we’ve filed those complaints.”

She says that she “called city hall multiple times, and they passed the buck and told me to call DPW.”

That same individual told the Reporter that there is a major issue involving Modern Disposal regarding waste retrieval in her neighborhood. “Modern is atrocious. They leave our totes in the street. They broke the totes, and even after a report we wait forever and we never get our totes replaced. My neighbor has been waiting since November of last year and he still has a broken tote.”

She and another individual working for the Niagara Falls city school district both told the Reporter that residents are resorting to dumping their garbage in the dumpsters outside of local schools. “It’s disgusting,” said the other resident, “we go out to throw the school’s garbage away and there are just piles and piles of garbage everywhere. People don’t know where else to dump their garbage so they’re dumping it at the schools and then running away!”

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