Trying to Raise The Sales Tax....Again
St. Lawrence County's fund balance is likely to fall below $1 million by year's end.
With the costs of running county government increasing, that could mean hefty property tax increases or significant cuts in services in next year's budget.
It could also mean resurrecting plans for a sales tax increase.
County Legislative Chair Sallie Brothers wants to meet with Governor Andrew Cuomo to explain the county's precarious financial condition and the reasoning behind the need to raise the county's sales tax from 3 to 4 percent.
She hopes to get the governor to sign on with the county's desire to raise its sales tax rather than hitting taxpayers with a hefty property tax or a drastic reduction of services.
"We're going to make every attempt to reach out to him to get him to see what's going on," said Brothers.
While the state has a 4 percent sales tax, counties have the authority to add up to 3 percent on top of that.
Anything higher requires the state Legislature's approval.
Senators Patty Ritchie and Joe Griffo are continuing to refuse to sponsor home rule legislation allowing the increase.
Sallie Brothers is pushing for legislative reform taking the state legislature out of the county sales tax process.
County legislators have already cut more than 100 positions through attrition over the past two years to help balance the budget after the sales tax increase plan was dropped.
Town and village officials met this week to discuss the sales tax question.
The local municipalities share the sales tax revenues in a 50/50 split with the county.
Brasher Supervisor Jim Dawson says they want to make sure they continue to get a fair share of the revenue.
"Historically we've always gotten half and we'd obviously like to continue that," said Dawson.
Should a 1 percent sales tax increase be approved, the county is expected to continue sharing some of the revenues with the towns and villages.
But, officials said any amount over the existing 3 percent tax would be kept by the county for at least a year to help replenish the fund balance.