A Smarter Financial Agreement with New York State

We need to stop describing the problem without offering a real solution. 

The City of Niagara Falls needs to create a more equitable and predictable financial relationship with New York State that does not change on a whim. We have all said some version of these words. I said it in my announcement video. Elected officials, at all levels, have talked about it for decades. It's a statement that often includes "I'll fight for our fair share," sounds good in a coffee shop and is usually met with nods of agreement.  But then, it doesn't happen. Frustrating, right? We can actually make a change, through partnership. 

The City of Niagara Falls should receive a dedicated portion of the parking revenue from Niagara Falls State Park. Our infrastructure supports, and brings all visits to, every state owned parcel in Niagara Falls. Our city expands in size during the tourism season, which brings higher municipal costs. But, I am not just asking for a handout or making a combative statement. I think we can form a collaborative agreement that creates a win for everyone.

Here's how:

-The City of Niagara Falls offers to match every dollar of parking based revenue that the state offers, budgeting it in an infrastructure/neighborhood investment account, approved by the City Council, showing our buy-in.

-A stakeholders group, including state and city elected officials, a representative from New York State Parks, the Seneca Nation and the private sector is created to guide how those funds are spent. The spending would be consistent with the tribal compact, and focused on building up our aging infrastructure, public safety and neighborhood quality of life. Stronger neighborhoods mean a stronger state park, extended tourism stays, grows the bed-tax and brings more customers to our local businesses. All city spending would still be subject to City Council approval, and New York State can keep its funding in state accounts until the time of actual expenditure. 

-As a trade-off, the City of Niagara Falls will cap the amount of state economic development grants it applied for because of the dedicated parking revenue source. This will allow New York State to invest those funds in other priority projects. We need solid revenue sources, year over year, more than one-time, silver bullet projects.   

If elected, I look forward to working with leaders of all levels of government, the private sector and the Seneca Nation to make this goal into a reality.

Seth Piccirillo