Tompkins Seeks Surcharge in State Parks to Help City

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By: Tony Farina

As Niagara Falls city councilmen grapple with outgoing Mayor Paul Dyster’s last proposed spending plan, one lawmaker is thinking outside the box and wants the creation of a $5 tourist parking surcharge in state parks to benefit the financially strapped city in years to come.

In a resolution filed with the council, Kenny Tompkins wants the city to request the state legislature to draft a bill that would help Niagara Falls collect a parking surcharge from the millions of tourists who flock to state parks every year to help the city stay afloat.

In his resolution, Tompkins, a Republican who is seeking re-election this year, wants the state to approve a bill for the purpose of adding the tourist surcharge as follows:

1)  Five dollars for every motor vehicle that parks on a New York State Parks Department parking lot within Niagara Falls; and

2)  Twenty dollars for every bus that parks on a New York State Parks Department parking lot within Niagara Falls; and

3)  Two dollars for every ticket sold at an attraction within the New York State Parks Department operated within Niagara Falls.

Under his proposal, the legislature would require that the State Parks Department and their vendors “remit the tourist surcharge to the City of Niagara Falls on a quarterly basis.”  

Tompkins wants the council to forward his resolution to state lawmakers and the governor as the city struggles with several painful proposals in the 2020 budget proposal now before them to help close a more than $4 million deficit, brought on in part by the stalemate between the state and the Seneca Nation over revenue sharing which stopped back in 2017 when the Senecas said they are no longer required to pay under the compact.

As things stand now, the city likely needs to enact an approximately $218 annual garbage user fee to help close the budget gap as well as increase the tax levy and lay off several workers.  The city has gone without a garbage fee enacted in other communities even though the city’s financial advisory board recommended the fee two years ago.

Tompkins believes the state needs to help in the current crisis by targeting the millions of tourists who come to the Cataract City every year to see the world wonder.  It is a way to raise new revenue that would not take money out of the pockets of struggling residents in one of the poorest cities in the state.


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