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Sales tax hike would shift tax burden to non-residents, supervisors say

QUEENSBURY - The proposed Warren County sales tax increase from 7 to 8 percent will stave off pending double-digit county property tax hikes and would mean lower net taxes for most residents while shifting much of the burden to tourists and transients, eight county supervisors said Monday.

The supervisors held an unprecedented press conference to detail how $7.6 million has been cut from the budget in recent months, which includes eliminating more than 50 county jobs - but the county still faces a deficit of $3.9 million or so, and has nearly depleted financial reserves. These reserve funds, normally used to stabilize taxes or meet short-term obligations, were spent prior to last year on keeping taxes artificially low while county expenses increased, county Board of Supervisors Fred Monroe said.

The depleted reserves, among the lowest for the state's counties, put Warren County in financial jeopardy, necessitating borrowing - and incurring this debt at a higher rate due to a newly-reduced bond rating, Monroe said.

To rebuild the reserves, avoid double-digit county property tax increases for many county residents, a boost in sales tax is the best available solution, Monroe said.

Increasing the sales tax by 1 percent will provide about $14 million in extra revenue, with about $6 million of this sum shouldered by tourists, second-home owners or transients - resulting in a lower total tax burden for county residents, he said.

"We believe this is the best solution for residents and reducing overall taxes," he said.

A sales tax increase would cut the pending property tax increase in Queensbury from 23.2 percent to 12 percent; reduce the similar pending increase in Johnsburg from 26.7 percent to 15.5 percent, the expected 15 percent increase in Bolton to 2.6 percent, and cut the pending increase of 23 percent in Lake George outside the village from 23.3 percent to 10.5 percent.

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