ELIZABETHTOWN -- Essex County lawmakers are considering raising the county sales tax as a way of preparing for a gloomy state budget picture.

Supervisor Roby Politi (R-North Elba) suggested the county consider raising its sales tax by one-half of a percent, which would hike the total sales tax from 73„4 percent to 81„4 percent.

Such a hike could generate as much as $3 million per year.

"At this time, I think it would be beneficial, given that the state has taken away so much that it has promised in the past," Politi said at Monday's Finance Committee meeting.

Of the 73„4-percent sales tax, 4 percent is state tax, and the rest is county tax.

Essex County is one of just 11 counties in the state that does not share its sales-tax revenue with its town and villages.

But Politi suggested that if the county increases the sales tax by one-half of a percent, a quarter of it should go to the county and the other quarter could go directly to the towns and villages.

"We could distribute it based on a formula that considers population and property-assessment values."

Supervisor Joyce Morency (R-St. Armand) said the added revenue would be a big help to the towns and villages.

"I think it is appropriate at this time to bring this up," she said. "I know people might be afraid to bring this up, but we need to look at this seriously."

Politi said that a sales-tax increase would be borne mostly by people who do not live in the county.

"I don't think a half a percent would have any great effect on people spending money," he said.

Supervisor Thomas Scozzafava (R-Moriah), chairman of the Finance Committee, said the county needs to consider additional revenue sources.

"We haven't raised the tax levy in four years, and if we want to continue to do that, we've got to find other revenue sources because no one wants to raise the property tax."

Supervisor George Canon (R-Newcomb) said the county also needs to consider cutting spending, given the difficult future of the state budget.

"We always add hay to the pile on the wagon, but we never seem to take any of the hay off."

Supervisor Robert Dedrick (R-Ticonderoga) brought the idea up nearly two years ago, but it fizzled.

"This is long overdue," he said Monday. "People are finally beginning to wake up and realize."

County Manager Daniel Palmer, County Treasurer Michael Diskin and Scozzafava will research the idea further before the county makes any decision.

jlotemplio@pressrepublican.com

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