Niagara Gazette

Local News

June 17, 2013

County lawmakers battle over NTCC funding

Niagara Gazette — While the Niagara Tourism & Convention Corp. received a dose of good news Thursday with word that the casino cash standoff had been settled and that funding source was restored, the agency is still fighting for every penny it can get from local municipalities.

The latest showdown for local funding involves the Niagara County Legislature.

Signs of a struggle within the county Legislature emerged Tuesday, when legislative Minority Caucus Leader Dennis Virtuoso, D-Niagara Falls, proposed legislation to have the county re-sign with NTCC for 15 years — and Majority Caucus Leader Richard Updegrove, R-Lockport, issued a statement suggesting the agency should get only a one-year extension on its current contract, while “an accounting of (its) stewardship” of bed tax money is performed.

The county’s existing 10-year contract with NTCC, by which the agency is the tourism promotion agency-of-record authorized to receive and spend local bed tax revenue, expired June 1.

In addition to the casino cash, which pays the agency about $1 million a year, NTCC is funded by three municipalities: the cities of Niagara Falls and Lockport, which collect bed tax within their borders, and Niagara County, which collects it everywhere else. Bed tax is a 4 percent charge on all hotel/motel room rentals, paid by the guests.

Lately Niagara Falls has been turning over $1 million a year in bed tax revenue, Lockport about $90,000 a year and the county about $80,000 a year to NTCC.

Criticism of the agency by both Niagara Falls and Lockport city leaders has increased over time. A group of Niagara Falls council members and Lockport Mayor Michael Tucker have both made pointed comments suggesting their cities don’t get their money’s worth from NTCC. While Tucker complains about the agency lavishing attention on Niagara Falls at Lockport’s expense, the agency’s critics on the Falls council, who also typically oppose Mayor Paul Dyster, voice objections to NTCC publicizing attractions outside their city.

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