Patrick Brown recent article in The Buffalo News reported on how some nonprofits like the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission have acted in making payments in lieu of taxes to local governments for services municipalities and school districts provide to such non-profits.
I'd like to expand upon that a bit and explain how the commission allocates revenues to enhance communities on both sides of our most crucial international border.
The Niagara Falls Bridge Commission is by law a tax-exempt, binational entity not required to pay property taxes in the United States. Nevertheless, it voluntarily makes payments in lieu of taxes, known as PILOTs, to local governments.
These are based on assessed values and applicable tax/special district rates. There are five taxing jurisdictions on the American side where we operate our three bridges -- Rainbow, Whirlpool and Lewiston-Queenston.
Since 1985, the commission has made a total of $6.07 million in PILOT payments to the City of Niagara Falls, Niagara County, Town of Lewiston and the school districts of Lewiston-Porter and Niagara Falls. These payments are comparable to what a taxpaying entity would have paid in property taxes.
The Niagara Falls Bridge Commission's mission is to facilitate commerce and provide secure, safe and efficient movement of people and goods across the three bridges. We are also interested in the economies of the United States and Canada and the benefits of creating an economic synergy in the region we serve. We see development of the culinary school not far from the Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls, the intermodal transportation/rail station and Underground Railroad interpretive center, both near the Whirlpool Bridge, as positive community and regional developments and that's why we support them.
Such interest in and commitment to the communities we operate in is additionally reflected in our community donations, which are over and above our payments in lieu of taxes. We annually distribute $100,000 -- $50,000 each in the United States and Canada -- to various not-for-profit entities in support of a variety of programs. Those payments have exceeded $900,000 since the program's inception.
The commission is also supporting work by volunteers planning to celebrate the 200th anniversary next year of the War of 1812.
The Niagara Falls Bridge Commission is appreciative for the services provided by the local governments and fully compensates each, as well as the communities they serve, accordingly.
We also want citizens using the bridges to know the Whirlpool Bridge is NEXUS only and we urge motorists to take advantage of that fastest of crossing methods.
We do more than cross the mighty Niagara, however; we draw people and communities together.
Patrick Brown is chairman of the board of the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission.