Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

January 24, 2014

City may not be collecting all utility taxes

BY JOE OLENICK joe.olenick@lockportjournal.com
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — It’s unknown if the City of Lockport is collecting all it is entitled to from its gross sales tax on utility companies.

The Common Council discussed the issue during Wednesday’s work session, when Council President Anne E. McCaffrey was sharing some goals the Council should have for 2014. Among them included imposing a gross receipts tax, an idea that came from the New York Conference of Mayors.

Corporation Counsel John J. Ottaviano told the Council the city already has a 1 percent tax on the gross sales within the city limits. The Council budgeted to receive $250,000 from the tax in 2013 and $180,000 in 2014. McCaffrey asked if the city was collecting it.

“I don’t know,” Ottaviano replied.

Ottaviano said he 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. The company was suggested by NYCOM.

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

Mayor Michael W. Tucker said he was sure the 40 percent fee could be negotiated. The Council did not make a decision about using the company for an audit.

McCaffrey’s list of goals included a possible increase in the city’s 3 percent “bed tax” on hotel and motel bills, improving the city’s website, starting wellness initiatives with employees, reviewing departmental plans to deal with reduced staffing and to monitor the budget closely.

McCaffrey said the city should set up a “reasonable” policy to start rebuilding its fund balance, update the city’s code of ethics and develop a grants subcommittee. She also suggested an idea from 1st Ward Alderman John Lombardi III, where city officials would speak with community and business professionals with revenue ideas the city could pursue.

In other city news, the Common Council approved an easement for the Evans Insurance building, 133 and 135 Main St., which has a staircase that encroaches on a 2-by-14-foot piece of city-owned property.

Contact reporter Joe Olenick at 439-9222, ext. 6241 or follow him on Twitter @joeolenick.