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Ogdensburg on a tight sales tax deadline as state legislature adjournment looms

Updated: Jun. 8, 2021 at 5:03 PM EDT
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OGDENSBURG, New York (WWNY) - State lawmakers are set to leave Albany soon, but the city of Ogdensburg needs a bill passed, or it faces a huge loss in sales tax revenue.

The city could lose a million dollars or more if state legislators don’t pass the bill to grant it home rule to collect sales tax.

“The bill is very important for us to get it passed, and to get it passed in this legislative session,” said Stephen Jellie, Ogdensburg city manager.

Mayor Mike Skelly agreed, “The bill is critical. The bill is critical.”

If the bill doesn’t get passed by the time the legislature adjourns, dire consequences are predicted.

“It will likely be a double digit reduction in our city workforce,” Skelly said.

The city needs the bill passed to collect the extra one-percent sales tax St. Lawrence County collects now. The city is able to pre-empt one-half percent of its current sales tax without legislation.

Overall sales tax collected at cash registers would stay at eight-percent.

“We are looking certainly to grow revenue here, but we don’t want to add any additional burden to people through this initiative,” Jellie said.

It all springs from the city and county failing to agree on a new formula for sharing sales tax. The county’s last offer would have reduced the city’s sales tax share by about $2 million. County officials said that would bring the city’s share in line with what other municipalities get.

“Why they should be treated any differently than a town or village – escapes me,” said St. Lawrence County legislator Kevin Acres.

City officials want to see if they can do better collecting their own sales tax. Assemblyman Mark Walczyk is carrying the bill in his house.

“We’re carrying the bill in Albany. The government that lives closest to the people, and is closest to the people, has the best ability to represent their wishes,” Walczyk said.

State Senator Patty Ritchie is carrying a parallel bill in the Senate.

The battle between county and city over sales tax has dragged on for two years. This week could see its final chapter written, or it could drag on longer.

It’s possible the bill doesn’t get passed. If it does, it’s possible the county could contest the city’s next steps.

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