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Localities will have chance to address sales tax issue

LOCKPORT – There may be plenty of talk about the notion to use an expected spike in sales tax to assist municipalities in Niagara County.

The proposal to create a special committee to study the notion of setting some of the county’s sales tax money aside for a local assistance fund was sent to the Administration Committee during last week’s County Legislature meeting.

County Legislature Chairman William L. Ross, C-Wheatfield, said that during the Sept. 8 Administration meeting, visiting officials will be allowed to speak.

Ross said he assured two town supervisors who called him that the fund would be taken from the county’s share of the sales tax and would not reduce the amounts sent to the cities, towns and villages.

The lead sponsor of the idea, Legislator Jason A. Zona, D-Niagara Falls, said the amount available from the expansion of the Fashion Outlets mall in the Town of Niagara is even greater than he said in late July, when he and Legislature Vice Chairman Clyde L. Burmaster, R-Ransomville, introduced the idea.

At the time, Zona plugged $3.1 million in extra sales tax from the mall’s soon-to-open 70-store expansion. It turns out that claim from the mall’s owners only covered the expected impact on tax revenue from Canadian shoppers coming across the border. It does not include any amounts that might be paid by U.S. shoppers.

“This has no effect on the sales tax distribution,” Zona said. “The resolution does say ‘the county share of sales tax.’”

The local sales tax is 4 percent, added to the state’s 4 percent. One of the four percentage points the county imposes is earmarked for Medicaid. The county keeps 47 percent of the rest of the revenue, and 1.6 percent goes to fund the 911 system. The other 51.4 percent is split among the cities, towns and villages based, on their population.

In other matters at last week’s meeting, the Legislature set a public hearing for Sept. 16 on a $20.25 million bond issue to fund a major waterline project for the county Water District.

The district is contributing $4 million of its own surplus to the plan to install more than 16.5 miles of new mains between Pendleton and Middleport, moving more water to eastern Niagara County and on to Medina, which is a Water District customer.

The Legislature also awarded a $4.58 million contract to Edbauer Construction of West Seneca to replace the Wilson-Burt Road Bridge in Newfane.

The Wendel engineering firm of Amherst received an $18,500 increase in its contract to plan a new Public Works garage for the county on Junction Road in Cambria.

The increase brings the total contract to $564,240.

The Legislature also appropriated $140,025 from its own surplus to build a new maintenance building for the county golf course. The golf course, which has an independent budget, will have to repay the county treasury with 2.15 percent interest over 10 years.