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Flight of Five organizers seek Lockport city bed tax increase

LOCKPORT – The committee in charge of the Flight of Five project is asking the city to seek an increase in the bed tax on hotel and motel bills to help pay for work on the locks.

The Lockport Locks Heritage District Corp., which is planning for regular operation of the restored 19th-century Erie Canal locks next year, has adopted a budget that assumes it will receive $30,000 from the bed tax.

Since almost all of the revenue is otherwise earmarked, however, the corporation board last week voted to ask the Common Council to increase the tax from 4 percent to 5 percent.

The Council would need to send a home rule request to the State Legislature, asking for passage of a law to allow the increase.

“I think it’s something that would be beneficial,” Mayor Anne E. McCaffrey said. “It’s not a tax that affects city residents.”

The city has been collecting a 4 percent bed tax since the 1990s. The city takes 5 percent off the top for its administrative costs.

After that, the city directs 75 percent of what’s left to the Niagara Tourism and Convention Corp., the county tourism promotion agency, and the city keeps the rest. Based on current hotel occupancy rates, the city keeps about $31,250 a year, Locks Heritage Chairman David R. Kinyon wrote in a memo to his board.

That figure would rise by about $7,850 if the tax rate rose to 5 percent, Kinyon figured.

R. Charles Bell, city planning and development director, said most of the city’s bed tax revenue is used to produce and distribute the city’s visitors guide.

The costs of developing the new Discover Lockport website have been taken out of the bed tax revenue, and the city used bed tax money to build a passenger railroad platform off Gooding Street in 2013.

Bell said revenue from the tax might rise even without a rate increase, thanks to the expected influx of parents and hockey players staying overnight for the multiday tournaments at Cornerstone Arena.

The city has committed to cover $20,000 a year in operations and maintenance costs for the Flight of Five, which is owned by the state Canal Corp. The other $10,000 sought by Locks Heritage would be applied to marketing, Kinyon said.

The city has three main lodgings – the Best Western Inn, the Comfort Inn and the Lockport Inn and Suites.