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A new “tourism tax” is in the works in the City of Niagara Falls.

City Council Chairman Sam Fruscione and members of the Niagara Falls Tourism Advisory Board on Monday discussed plans to impose a 50-cent tax on tickets sold by area attractions and tour operators.

Supporters say the effort, modeled after a similar tax applied to attractions in Niagara Falls, Ont., would create a pool of funds the city desperately needs to carry out economic development projects, road repairs and demolition of neglected and abandoned buildings.

“They did it in Niagara Falls, Ont.” said Fruscione, who serves as the council liaison to the advisory board. “It is not something that is make you or break you.”

Fruscione told advisory board members that he is planning to meet soon with city attorneys to discuss the finer points of the proposal. The first step, he said, would be development of a council resolution calling on state lawmakers to formally approve a change in home rule law that would the city to begin collecting the tax. Fruscione said the tax would be similar in fashion to the bed tax now charged to hotels within city limits. In this case, tour operators and attractions such as the Maid of the Mist, Aquarium of Niagara and Cave of the Winds would be asked to add a 50-cent charge to the price of admission, with the funds directed to the city for economic development and other purposes to be described under language to be worked out by city attorneys.

Fruscione said he’d like to have a resolution completed and ready for council approval in a few weeks.

He believes the 50-cent charge to customers of area attractions and tours could generate perhaps as much as $1 million in added revenue for the city each year. He said he’d like for the money to be directed for use on projects within the city’s various business districts. “It can be used for economic development and infrastructure in the downtown tourist district,” Fruscione said. “It can be recycled back into there.”

Tourism Advisory Board Chairman Jerry Genova said the funds would come in handy for various citywide cleanup efforts and to purchase things like benches and other items the city often cannot afford otherwise. He also would like for a portion of the money to be used to support area businesses and attractions like the Aquarium in buying security equipment or doing other projects aimed at improving their bottom line.

“This is not some kind of general fund, slush fund or party fund,” he said.

In other matters, the board:

n Rejected a request from Charles Knoll, owner of the Falls Motel on Buffalo Avenue, who encouraged members to take a stand against the proposed construction of a 57-story hotel on the site of the Loretto Christian academy in Niagara Falls, Ont. Knoll expressed concern that the height of the building would result in a shadow being cast across the river to Terrapin Point, potentially harming the experience of Goat Island visitors. Fruscione and members of the advisory board concluded that Niagara Falls has more pressing problems of its own to worry about.

“That’s none of our business,” Fruscione said. “That’s Canada.”

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