St. Hilaire Says County 'An Open Book'

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St. Lawrence County officials are both hopeful and frustrated by a state senator's suggestion that the county open its books in order to speed its request for a sales tax hike.

"You know, we're an open book," said county Administrator Karen St. Hilaire. "We will open our books to anyone."

"We have for the last two years," she said. "We have nothing to hide."

St. Hilaire is reacting to suggestions by Sen. Joe Griffo Thursday that the county submit to an audit while state officials consider a request to raise the sales tax from 7 to 8 percent.

St. Hilaire spoke live by phone Friday on 7 News This Morning. Click on the picture above to hear the full inverview.

She repeated many of the arguments the county made in a written response to the senator.

St. Hilaire said the county recently completed a two-month audit by the state comptroller's office and had its books reviewed by the senate finance committee.

Griffo's statements, though, seem to open the door to getting an increase, St. Hilaire said.

"We're actually very hopeful that the senator's softened his stance," she said.

Both Griffo and state Sen. Patty Ritchie have strongly opposed any hike in the tax.

But now, Griffo, at least, appears ready to talk about it. St. Hilaire said Griffo invited county officials to Albany in early March to talk about it.

St. Hilaire says the increase is necessary to soften the blow on property owners, who saw their county taxes go up by 14.3 percent this year.

"If we do not get this sales tax, we are promising a double-digit increase for the next five years," she said.

"No one wants to do it, but there's just no way to make the books work if we don't have this money."

Wednesday, April 16, 2014
, Watertown, NY

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