Real estate tax assists with public safety

ELIZABETHTOWN - Before settling on a 50-percent boost, Essex County lawmakers first considered doubling the real-estate transfer tax that people pay when they sell property.

The Essex County Board of Supervisors wants to use the money to pay for a new public-safety radio system.

The state's real-estate transfer tax generates more than $2 million a year in the county, based on $2 for every $500 of conveyance.

"If you raise that to $4, $2 goes back to us," County Manager Daniel Palmer said. "I think we could live with $1 (more). I do think it's a way to put it (the radio system) off the property tax."

Counties are allowed to levy their own real-estate transfer tax.

"This is an additional transfer tax," County Attorney Daniel Manning III said. "The other tax goes to the state."

Palmer said the new tax would be designated for capital projects.

"It's a way of paying some of that radio project as a user fee," Palmer said.

The first phase of the radio-system construction has been awarded to Motorola Inc. for $2.5 million.

County Clerk Joseph Provoncha said a new transfer tax might be acceptable if someone selling a property paid it.

"One of the things discussed was this is unfair on those buying a property. The rule of thumb is it's the seller who pays."

Supervisor Roby Politi (R-North Elba) said sellers are now trying to negotiate having the buyer pay part of the transfer tax.

"It is going to get passed on. It's going to affect buyers and sellers somewhat. I think it's going to affect someone buying a house."

Since the tax is normally paid by the seller, the buyer would have to resist changing how it's done.

"I don't think it's going to affect people whether they buy or sell property," Politi said. "The question I have is jumping to this and having the third-highest transfer tax in the state of New York."

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