BY LOHR McKINSTRY Press-Republican
---- — ELIZABETHTOWN — Support for Essex County charging its own motor-vehicle registration fees appears to be less than sufficient to ensure passage.
The County Board of Supervisors was split recently on authorizing County Attorney Daniel Manning III to prepare a local law that would levy a $5-a-year fee on passenger cars and $10 a year on commercial vehicles, to be paid upon registration.
Lawmakers voted 12 to 4 at their Ways and Means session to give Manning the go-ahead, but many supervisors said they voted yes only so a public hearing would eventually be held to gauge support for the new law.
“I don’t support it,” Supervisor Gerald Morrow (D-Chesterfield) said. “The only ones that are going to pay for this are residents of Essex County. I feel this is a fee, but it’s still a tax. We should get it some other way.”
FOR ROAD MAINTENANCE
The money would be used to maintain roads in the county, Supervisor Thomas Scozzafava (R-Moriah) said.
“The registration fee, to me, makes sense,” he said. “This is going to be money that won’t go on the property tax. It directly relates to highway use.”
But there may not be enough votes to pass it in the long run, he said.
“From what I’m hearing, it’s probably not going to fly.”
Scozzafava said a public hearing would at least let them find out what their constituents think.
“It’s something that’s needed. Otherwise, we’d have to make drastic cuts (in the next county budget).”
Essex County Department of Motor Vehicles offices process about 31,000 vehicle registrations a year, and County Manager Daniel Palmer said the fee would generate $100,000 to $150,000 annually.
“It (the resolution) doesn’t do anything other than move it forward,” he said.
Supervisor Daniel Connell (D-Westport) said many businesses with multiple vehicles would suffer from such a tax.
“To me, it’s an aggressive tax,” he said. “Whenever we need to balance the budget, we take it out of the highway fund.”
During the annual budget process, spending for paving or highway equipment is often cut to keep the county tax rate down.
The state allows counties to charge a local vehicle-registration fee, and all surrounding counties charge it, Supervisor Randy Preston (I-Wilmington) said.
“It is an alternative. We have to look for ways to get the budget under control.”
Voting against having Manning prepare a law for possible passage were Supervisors Morrow, Connell, Sharon Boisen (I-Essex) and Michael Marnell (R-Schroon). Board of Supervisors Chair Randy Douglas (D-Jay) and Supervisor Edward Hatch (D-Willsboro) were absent.
The measure gets a final vote at 10 a.m. Monday in the Old County Courthouse at Elizabethtown.
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