Niagara Gazette

November 8, 2013

HAMILTON: The 'Calorie Corridor' and county sales tax

By Ken Hamilton
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — In San Diego, there was the famous “Mile of Cars.” In south Philadelphia, there was a mile of automobile junkyards. But in the Niagara Falls area, between Bob Evans restaurant at Niagara Falls Boulevard and Interstate-190, through the hot dog stand and Mom’s at Military and the Boulevard, and on up Military Road to Tim Hortons at Porter and Packard roads, we have the “Calorie Corridor.” And we salivate as we await the arrival of a Popeye’s Fried Chicken franchise to fill in any skinny lot that is left in this plethora of mostly chain dining facilities.

But for now, aside from wings, the Falls is chickenless. Not only has the Main Street KFC long ago shuttered that store, but the Boulevard store is being demolished and rebuilt to better meet the present and forthcoming competition.

Military Road, not downtown, now has the bulk, and I do mean bulk, of the franchise restaurant chains; and a lot of those are in the Town of Niagara. But can you imagine what kind of a “military” that we would have if those restaurants were the chow halls where soldiers took their meals. Our soldiers would be as fat as are those county’s biggest source of sales taxes that Military Road produces for it. Because the factory outlet mall is in the town of Niagara, the townies want a greater share of the sales tax revenues that their real estate generate.

I know this because it came up in the last county legislator electoral debate. For those who don’t understand why, then the way that I understand it is that the county takes their share and distribute the rest equally, based on population, with each defined municipality. That means that Niagara Falls gets more sales tax revenues from all sales in the county than any other municipality; and that the Town of Niagara gets less than any other town, it being, what I have been told, the least populated town.

But, is it fair that the sales tax revenue is divided based upon population?

My initial thought is that it isn’t. But upon further investigation, I have come to believe that it is.

Here’s why. Many of the services that the towns use are in the cities, and many of those services are not fully financially supported by the towns. The libraries that serve many of the people who live in the towns are in the cities, and a pro rata share of funds expended on each user of these facilities are disproportionately placed upon the city residents.

There are many other services and sources that are used by non-city dwellers whose burdens are disproportionately placed upon the cities. Despite the location of the outlet mall, the approaches to it are in other towns and cities. In all cases, these cities and towns that provide access to these mega-sales tax revenue generators are either paid for by the cities and towns, or they consume property that could have otherwise been tax generators themselves.

Additionally, most of the income that is generated by those who live just outside of the cities’ boundaries are overwhelmingly generated within those neighboring cities. Most of the higher-income people who work in the city, and are not compelled to live in the city, live in these nearby towns. They take their city-generated money to those towns, buy property and homes that are assessed much higher than the homes in the cities, and likely generate for these outlying towns far more property tax revenue than what could be had from increasing a share of sales tax.

If I have to say so myself, the sales tax revenue sharing plan is likely not as fair as it could possibly be, but it is as fair as practical, and I would not change it.

If county legislators want to increase sales tax revenues, then they can take credit for doing so by hanging around the “Calorie Corridor” until the buttons on the four-X suits pop. But for most of those in Niagara County, the distribution ain’t broke, so please don’t try to fix it!

Note: Please, please, please make sure that you have checked and changed the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors — your families’ lives may depend upon it.

Contact Ken Hamilton at kenhamilton930@aol.com.

Contact Ken Hamilton at kenhamilton930@aol.com.