Surcharge Plan Likely to Win Council Support

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Niagara Falls City Council


By: Tony Farina

It appears the Niagara Falls City Council will overwhelmingly pass the tourist parking surcharge resolution sponsored by Kenny Tompkins by at least a 4 to 1 vote this week (Wednesday), but it most likely faces long odds to win approval at the state level which would be needed for it to become a reality.

Tompkins is pushing the resolution to bring in revenue to cash-starved Niagara Falls by adding a $5 surcharge to vehicles and $20 for every bus that use the state parking lots every year during tourist season, a tax that would benefit the city of Niagara Falls.  There would also be a $2 surcharge for attractions within the state parks.

Tompkins, a Republican, appears to have the support of the three Democrats who make up the council majority but his fellow Republican Chris Voccio is concerned about the use planned for what he calls “magical money,” possibly as much as $12 million to $14 million a year, if it happens to materialize.

Voccio doesn’t think enough planning has gone into the measure, including discussions with state lawmakers, and is not sure how he will vote on the resolution at Wednesday’s meeting.  Voccio has consistently argued the city has a spending problem and lawmakers need to address that issue by making tough decisions, not pulling in dollars with no plan in sight to reduce expenses.

State Assemblyman Angelo Morinello, a Republican like Tompkins, seems lukewarm to the idea, saying no one has talked to him about it, an early sign that state approval of such a surcharge would have tough sledding given that other communities across the state might like the same deal. 

However Council Chairman Andy Touma strongly supports making the effort to win state backing for the parking surcharge in a community where millions come every year, saying he would personally travel to Albany to lobby state lawmakers to help the city as it fights to survive difficult times made even more difficult by the loss of gaming revenue because of the dispute between the state and the Seneca Nation. 

Meanwhile, Touma, Tompkins, and Voccio have their hands full as they deal with closing a projected $4-plus million hole in next year’s proposed budget.  The proposal from the mayor to close that deficit includes a garbage user fee of about $218 a year, a slight increase in the tax levy, and about a dozen layoffs across the board.


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