County considers hike in sales tax

Bolton Supervisor Kathleen Simmes said she supported the sales tax hike if it meant lower property taxes.

Queensbury at-large Supervisor David Strainer said he opposed the hike because once sales taxes are raised, they never get lowered.

"Once government gets its hands on the money, it gets spent," he said. But Strainer did say he'd like the measure to go before the public for a decision.

Monday, county leaders were crafting a proposal to alleviate Strainer's concerns.

Monday, Clerk of the Board Joan Sady said county officials were preparing a proposal that would dedicate the new revenue from the additional one percent solely to reducing property taxes, and not allow it to prompt further spending, she said.

She added that only five counties among the state's 62 counties or boroughs have sales tax rates as low as Warren County. She said Hamilton, Warren, Washington, Saratoga and St. Lawrence counties are the only ones charging as low as 7 percent, and most are 8 percent or higher.

Warrensburg Supervisor Kevin Geraghty said he would like to continue cutting expenses before enacting any additional taxes.

Already the supervisors have asked county department heads to eliminate any increases in spending, and they've frozen their own pay and department heads' wages at last year's levels, plus they've enacted a hiring freeze.

But that might not be enough, warned Monroe, who cited projections of $1.4 million next year needed to pay existing county employees' additional retirement-plan costs, $450,000 additional in worker health-care premiums, $2.2 million extra in trash-plant operating shortfalls, an estimated $1.1 million in settlements of pending employee work contracts, and $1.2 million in new debt payments for county facilities.

"We've made a lot of cuts, but next year's budget is going to be extra difficult," he said.

A vote to approve the sales-tax enabling legislation doesn't necessarily mean new taxes will be imposed, Monroe said. Several separate votes need to be taken before such a measure is approved. The final vote would be a permissive referendum, Sady said.

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