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January 5, 2009

Essex County agrees to share sales tax

Essex County to send tax portion to municipalities

ELIZABETHTOWN — A historic attempt to share Essex County's sales-tax revenue with the county's 18 towns and four villages sailed through county lawmakers Monday.



Although some members of the County Board of Supervisors had concerns about the timing of the effort — it was placed on the agenda without committee approval — the sales-tax sharing passed with only five of 18 supervisors opposed.



That means that starting Jan. 1, 2010, Essex County will begin sending municipalities one-quarter percent of the 3.75-percent sales tax it collects.



PUSHED FOR YEARS

The sharing was proposed by Supervisor Roby Politi (R-North Elba), whose town would get most of the redistributed tax money.



"Town governments today are struggling," Politi said. "The time has come for Essex County to start equitably distributing revenues."



Public officials in the Lake Placid-North Elba area have been trying for years to get a share of the county's sales-tax money, since most of it is generated at tourist accommodations there.



Essex County has never shared its sales tax in the past. Only counties with a city within their borders are required by law to do so.



FORMULA

The money, estimated at $1.5 million a year, would be distributed to towns and villages using a formula equally weighting assessed value and population.



Last year, county lawmakers discussed but took no action on asking the State Legislature for a one-quarter percent sales-tax increase to redistribute.



The current plan would take it from existing sales-tax revenue instead, which worried some supervisors.



"I don't see how we can afford to give up 4 percent of our revenues," Supervisor Ronald Jackson (R-Essex) said. "I haven't heard anyone talk about where the additional revenue is coming from to balance this."



He said the tax sharing should be done in conjunction with the budget process, which occurs at the end of the year, so Politi's resolution was amended to make the program take effect a year from now.

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