Press-Republican

September 10, 2013

Clinton County sales-tax revenue way ahead

Legislator Mark Dame wants cut for taxpayers

JOE LoTEMPLIO
Press-Republican

PLATTSBURGH — With sales-tax revenue streaking well ahead of projections, one Clinton County legislator wants to explore providing a major tax break for property owners next year.

“Hopefully, this can lead to no tax increase next year or even a tax decrease,” Legislator Mark Dame (R-Area 8, City and Town of Plattsburgh) said at a recent Finance Committee meeting.

County Treasurer Joseph Giroux reported that sales-tax revenue for the county is a little more than $2.6 million ahead of projections for the year and about $1 million ahead of last year’s pace.

Dame said that $2.6 million represents about 9.3 percent of the county’s tax levy. If revenue continues to remain strong and costs do not go way up, residents should get a tax cut for close to that amount in next year’s budget, he said.

“We should not be in the business of hoarding money,” Dame said following the meeting.

“We have plenty of services, and if we can give the taxpayers a break, we should do it.”

‘LAST RESORT’

Dame said property taxes are a last resort and that government should look to raise revenue in other ways. Sales tax is a perfect way to raise money, he said.

“The poor taxpayer has been repeatedly beaten up.

“We should not artificially inflate our tax levy if we don’t have to. The taxpayer needs to benefit from this.”

Not all of Dame’s colleagues agreed with his assertion that the positive sales-tax numbers would translate into a 9.3 percent tax cut.

“There is one legislator here in the back row that will never vote for that,” John Gallagher (D-Area 9, City of Plattsburgh) said from his chair directly behind Dame in the Legislative Chambers.

County Administrator Michael Zurlo, who serves as the county’s budget officer, said yearly sales-tax revenue affects budget forecasts for more than just the upcoming year.

“We have to look a couple years out to make sure we are stable going forward,” he said.

“But I understand what you (Dame) are saying.”

CAUTION URGED

Finance Committee Chairwoman Sara Rowden (D-Area 4, Town of Plattsburgh) also urged caution because positive sales-tax revenue is not always a guarantee.

“We still need to be very careful,” she said.

Legislator Robert Butler (R-Area 6, Saranac) said it appeared that Dame, who is running for re-election this year, was trying to make political hay out of the sales-tax issue.

“I see evidence that the political season is rearing its head,” Butler said.

“Some of us want to take this good news and use it for one thing, but there is a much bigger picture than that.”

Dame said he has touted tax cuts ever since he was a member of the City of Plattsburgh Common Council in the early 1990s.

“Obviously, he (Butler) has not followed my political career that closely,” he said.

“If I believe in lower property taxes, then I am probably in the majority. Who doesn’t want to lower taxes?”

Email Joe LoTemplio:jlotemplio@pressrepublican.com