Lockport Council doesn’t know if local utilities are paying accurate gross sales tax - The Buffalo News

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Lockport Council doesn’t know if local utilities are paying accurate gross sales tax

LOCKPORT – The city doesn’t know if it is collecting all it is entitled to from its gross receipts tax on utility companies.

The subject came up during Wednesday’s Common Council work session, when Council President Anne E. McCaffrey mentioned that a list of ideas from the New York Conference of Mayors included imposing a gross receipts tax.

Corporation Counsel John J. Ottaviano reminded the aldermen that the city already has a 1 percent tax on the gross sales within the city limits of such firms as Verizon, Time Warner Cable and New York State Electric & Gas Corp.

“Are we collecting it?” McCaffrey asked.

“I don’t know,” Ottaviano replied.

He said he had recently received a pitch from a company that offered to audit the gross receipts tax for a fee of 40 percent of the extra money the audit might bring in.

“I’d be surprised if we’re collecting what we’re entitled to without an audit,” Ottaviano said.

Alderman Patrick W. Schrader, D-4th Ward, grumbled about the company’s 40 percent fee, but Mayor Michael W. Tucker said he was sure it could be negotiated. No decision was made.

The Council budgeted to receive $250,000 from the gross receipts tax in 2013, but through November, collections were listed as $182,000.

State auditors have criticized the city for inaccurate financial record-keeping.

McCaffrey offered the Council a list of goals that included a possible increase in the city’s 3 percent “bed tax” on hotel and motel bills, as the financially strapped city scrounges for additional revenue.

She also said the city needs to rebuild its wiped-out fund balance and set up a “reasonable” fund balance policy. The city has no policy at all on that topic now.

In another matter, the Council approved an easement on a staircase outside the Evans Insurance building, 133-135 Main St., which encroaches on a 2-by-14-foot piece of city-owned property.

The encroachment could interfere with landlord Ulrich Development Co.’s plans to sell the building.

Ottaviano said, “If we make them remove the stairs, they can’t get in the building.”

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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