TOWN OF NIAGARA – Town officials are looking to get a bigger slice of any extra sales-tax revenues that result from the expansion of the Fashion Outlets of Niagara Falls.
At a work session Thursday, the Town Board and Niagara County Legislator Jason A. Zona agreed that the most sensible approach would be to ask the Legislature to approve a proposal that would give the town a larger share of any additional sales taxes that come in from the $71 million expansion of the mall.
Supervisor Steve Richards said the town would like to receive an increased share of the “found money” that will come to the county once the 170,000-square-foot expansion is completed.
Richards said mall developers are planning for an estimated $200 million in new retail sales.
Even $500,000 extra for the town would be “like manna from heaven,” Richards said.
Zona said the town would not seek to change the current distribution formula for sales tax revenues, which is based on each municipality’s population. The existing formula would remain intact, he said.
The sales tax in Niagara County is 8 percent: 4 percent each for the county and the state. The county keeps one percentage point to partially fund the local share of Medicaid.
Richards said the town lost about 2,000 residents since the last census so its share of sales tax has decreased.
Yet, the town has to cover all related expenses connected with the mall, such as police and fire services.
“What would it cost the county for those police calls? Richards said.
Zona agreed that there was no question that the town is “being shortchanged” and Richards said any extra revenues would go toward police and fire costs.
Zona cautioned the board that he still would need eight votes to approve any such measure and that representatives from other districts that receive revenues but have no related costs may not be receptive.
He asked the board to meet again to discuss an actual monetary figure to request and then pass a resolution for him to take to the Legislature.
Zona said the sales-ax issue has become a “political football” recently with inaccurate information being spread and he didn’t want the plan to suffer as a result.
He said he has been developing the plan and doing research for well over a month.
Site plans for the expansion are still under review but a property tax break for the mall is being considered by the town Industrial Development Agency, it was noted.