Niagara Falls City Hall sig

Niagara Falls City Hall

City Controller Daniel Morello had some goods news and some bad news to deliver to the Falls City Council before the local lawmakers began their summer recess Wednesday night.

In a short update on city revenues, Morello told the council members occupancy tax collections through the first six months of 2020 remain in a freefall.

For the first two quarters of 2020, the city's occupancy tax collections, a lodging tariff, were $387,000. For the same period in 2019, the collections totaled $1.352 million.

Morello said the crash in collections represented a 72 percent decline year-to-date for occupancy tax receipts.

The news on June's county sales tax collections was the reverse of the occupancy tax red ink.

Sales tax collections in June hit $1.060 million, a 13 percent increase in receipts from June 2019. Morello said he was hopeful that jump would continue into July.

The city also picked up some cash from National Grid after an audit of the Falls street light system. The city contracted for the audit in 2012, to determine if the electric utility was correct in its billing.

Morello noted that the cost of street lights is one of the larger expenses in the city budget. 

After the audit, ranging from 2013 to 2019, the city received a refund from National Grid of $11,491.15.

"We got the check today," Morello said. "We're doing our due diligence to make sure what we're paying is correct." 

The controller also said that the balance in the city's casino cash account currently stands at $1.3 million.

Mayor Robert Restaino told the council that talks with the Seneca Nation over unpaid revenue sharing are continuing. The mayor also said the nation is in an election cycle and casino operations have become a major issue in candidate campaigns.

The mayor also said that as a result of the allocation of unused Community Development funds, the city will schedule the demolition of 25 derelict homes and undertake five new road paving projects.

The projects include:

• Falls Street, from 19th Street to Hyde Park Boulevard

• Veterans Drive, from Falls Street to Buffalo Avenue

• 22nd Street, from Pine Avenue to Pierce Avenue

• 17th Street, from Ferry Avenue to Niagara Street

• 30th Street, from Ferry Avenue to Falls Street

"We are really taking a hard look at the Community Development funds not expended and plowing them back into the community," Restaino said.

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