Ritchie "Not Especially Supportive" of Sales Tax Request


By Jude Seymour

Jefferson County legislators will have to make a compelling case if they want Sen. Patty Ritchie's support for a 7.75 percent sales tax rate.

"I'm not especially supportive of any kind of tax increases, but the extension is a little bit different matter," the freshman senator said Thursday. "I'm looking forward to talking to country officials."

Shoppers have paid an extra 0.75 percent on the 7 percent base sales tax here since 2005. The extra bit was worth $10.6 million last year, according to Jefferson County Legislature Vice Chairman Mike Docteur.

"This Jefferson County Legislature has been very reluctant to raise the property tax," said the legislator. "We've been able to maintain a stable tax levy, in part, due to an increase in sales tax revenue."

If the county were to lose the extra collection, Docteur said the tax levy would need to increase 23 percent to maintain current spending levels.

"It would just be an impossible burden on our constituents," he said. "If I were in her (Ritchie's) position and someone were to come back to me and say, 'You support a tax increase for Jefferson County,' No. Essentially no. You support a tax decrease for the property tax levy."

Sales tax revenue is divided among the county, the city of Watertown and towns and villages.

Ritchie said she'd likely support the measure if it were paired with some sort of tax relief. In 2007, Sen. James W. Wright and then Assemblyman Darrel Aubertine traded their support for a tax break on home heating fuels.

Docteur said it was unlikely that such an offer would be made.

"The Jefferson County Legislature can meet the needs of its consttituents and provide tax relief where needed and really shouldn't be dictated to by anyone on how to do that," he said.

Assemblywoman Addie Russell, a former county legislator, agreed. The Theresa Democrat does not believe that state lawmakers should block home-rule legislation that the county believes is in their best interest, according to her chief of staff, Mark Pacilio.

Assemblyman Ken Blankenbush said he would also support the measure, adding that the 7.75 percent rate is still one of the lowest statewide. As a past county Legislature chairman, Blankenbush said he understand how sales tax can be used to lower the property tax rate and tax levy.

He added: "We really don't know how deep the cuts are going to be for municipalities in the state budget."

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John Peck said on Friday, Feb 25 at 11:30 PM

In April of 2010 the St. Lawrence board of legislators was considering raising the sales tax rate by 1% and furthermore seeking support for a state law to help them to raise it without asking for state approval every two years. Te fact that there are many people that live in this county don't pay direct property taxes, traverse our roads to utilize services that are provided by th county ad local government, I think that it is prudent and fair to asses a tax on those individuals that enjoy the same benefits as those who have property and pay the land based tax. Jefferson county is still one the low end of the scale for sales tax , have you taken a trip to Oneida county and paid 8.75%? Or even to Syracus and pay 8%. Revenue must be made and sales tax is just one of the ways,.

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American Taxpayer said on Friday, Feb 25 at 6:23 PM

Opposing "any kind of tax increase" when faced with a deficit is irresponsible.

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John Peck said on Thursday, Feb 24 at 11:01 PM

Raising tax revenue from sales tax has been very beneficial to all of Jefferson County. The revenue sharing with the towns and villages has helped keep taxes down at the local level not just at the county level. We have a tremendous retail industry which both Ft Drum and Canadians take advantage of. It is unfortunate that the counties need to go to their state legislators every so often with their hat in their hands pleading their state representatives to either support the current sales tax rate or increase it. At this time I would not be in favor of a tax increase, but I am all in favor of maintaining the current tax rate.

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St. Lawrence County Taxpayer said on Thursday, Feb 24 at 9:28 PM

So what you are saying is that by keeping the sales tax rate at 7.75%, you can have out of town people, the same ones that patronize your restaurants and shops, pay extra to keep your property taxes from going up. I think I will be shopping in St. Lawrence County more often. I need to save as much money as I can so I can afford to pay my property taxes in St. Lawrence County. We are not relying on outsiders paying our property taxes for us.

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