Press-Republican

August 25, 2013

Essex County prepares to OK sales-tax hike

By LOHR McKINSTRY
Press-Republican

---- — ELIZABETHTOWN — Essex County lawmakers don’t want to wait for their next regular meeting to OK a hike in the county’s sales tax.

So they’ve scheduled a special meeting at 11:30 a.m. Monday to vote on whether to increase the rate by one-quarter percent.

The hike would bring an estimated $2 million more to county coffers annually, and the Home Rule legislation that would allow it was signed into law on Tuesday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“It’s a shot in the arm,” County Board of Supervisors Chair Randy Douglas (D-Jay) said Friday. “We are a tourist county, and everybody shares this tax.

“We’re just bringing it up to par with Franklin and Clinton (counties).”

TWO-YEAR LIFE

The increase bill had passed both houses of the Legislature in June. Assemblyman Dan Stec (R-Queensbury), sponsored the county-requested bill in the Assembly, while State Sen. Betty Little (R-Queensbury) presented it in the Senate.

The county now collects a 3.75 percent sales tax, and adding the increase to the state’s 4 percent will result in a combined 8 percent sales tax, matching surrounding counties.

If the County Board of Supervisors passes the tax increase, which it is expected to, the hike will take effect Dec. 1. It would have to be renewed by its expiration on Nov. 30, 2015, to continue after that date.

The tax vote had been planned for the board’s regular meeting on Sept. 3, but Douglas called a special meeting for Monday, since the County Ways and Means session is that day at 10 a.m. in the Old County Courthouse at Elizabethtown. 

Both meetings are open to the public.

‘LEAST INTRUSIVE’

Based on every $160,000 in revenue equal to 1 percent on the county property tax, the new revenue could forestall a 12.5 percent tax hike, officials said.

“It’s the least intrusive tax to go into effect,” Douglas said. “Hopefully, it will give some relief to property taxpayers. Every revenue we can take on without raising property taxes is a plus for us.”

Douglas said County Manager Daniel Palmer, County Treasurer Michael Diskin, County Attorney Daniel Manning III and others worked hard getting all the facts and figures together to justify the sales-tax increase.

“They put a lot of work into this. So those guys are to be commended to make this happen, and I appreciate that.”

Douglas said he has heard some business owners might come to the meeting to speak against the increase.

“I’ll open it up for public comment. We want to hear what they have to say.”

Email Lohr McKinstry:lmckinstry@pressrepublican.com