Board split on sales tax increase

ELIZABETHTOWN Discussion of a possible sales tax increase continued on Sept. 15 with Finance Committee members in disagreement over whether to follow through with a proposed half-percent increase. Following a resolution passed at a Sept. 2 regular board meeting which authorized a request to the state Department of Taxation and Finance asking permission to raise the sales tax in Essex County by half a percent, some board members are now wavering on their decision to vote in favor of the increase. Ticonderoga Supervisor Robert Dedrick expressed concern about the increase, referring to strong opposition he received from businesses in his town, several of which have a high percentage of customers who come from outside the county. Whats going to happen if were one of the highest sales tax counties in the state? asked Dedrick, Whats going to happen to those monies that are coming into Ticonderoga? Many counties in New York State currently have a sales tax rate of eight percent. A half percent increase in Essex County would raise the sales tax to 8.25 percent. I dont know which way to go on this, but I know right now the heat I got last week for supporting this is more than Ive got in seven years as supervisor for any issue, Dedrick added, noting that he still supported proposed plans to redistribute a quarter percent worth of sales tax revenue to each town. Since Ticonderogas votes are among the most weighty on the board, Dedricks opposition may be enough to keep an increase from being passed. Moriah town supervisor Thomas Scozzafava suggested withdrawing the request to increase taxes. I think that without Mr. Dedricks support, that its really a moot point, said Scozzafava, who chairs the finance committee. Westport Supervisor Daniel Connell expressed his opposition to the sales tax increase, noting that it stacks with gross reciept taxes for local businesses. My businesses are just absolutely against this, said Connell, who was one of only four supervisors to vote against the request to raise the tax at the Sept. 2 meeting. Several other board members expressed support for the increase, however, noting a list of major county-funded projects that would require the generation of more revenue. North Elba Supervisor Robert Politi, who originally proposed the increase, said that even with some cuts to spending, more revenue would be needed to keep things running smoothly. St. Armand Supervisor Joyce Morency agreed and suggested most people would prefer an increase in sales tax to an increase in property tax. Town of Jay Supervisor Randy Douglas suggested a compromise; raising the tax by a quarter percent to match up with neighboring counties, and subsequently redistributing half of that back to each town. One eighth of a percent doesnt do anything for anybody, said Politi in opposition. County Attorney Dan Manning affirmed that, even if the submitted request is approved by the state, the decision on whether to enact an increase could be made later. County Manager Dan Palmer urged board members to continue requesting permission from the state for the sales tax increase in case they decided more revenue was needed to meet the needs of the budget. I dont think its premature to be talking about this, said Palmer. You dont have to commit to it, but you sure can plan for it. Regardless of whether its a half or a quarter... you still have to put stuff in place ahead of time so that you have the option to make the decision.

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