Public decries sales tax hike plan

QUEENSBURY - About 100 people attended a special meeting of the Warren County Board of Supervisors convened Dec. 10 to consider a proposed sales tax hike, and every citizen stepping to the microphone but one voiced objection to the measure, which was endorsed in concept last week by the board. More than a dozen speakers attacked the proposed raise in sales tax from 7 to 8 percent, calling for further cuts in county programs.

The show of indignation over a sales tax increase prompted the board to set an additional budget-cutting meeting for Tuesday, and at that six-hour meeting, a variety of reductions were made totaling about $700,000, county officials said late Tuesday.

Among the concepts discussed, they said, were privatizing either or both the county airport and the county's Countryside Adult Home, and selling the county's share of Gaslight Village.

They also talked about lowering their own pay, as well as the county's non-union employees, by 5 percent. The latter idea failed because it would create a disparity between those workers and CSEA union employees which have so far refused to reopen contract negotiations and reduce a pending pay increase.

The supervisors voted to not include anticipated revenue for the proposed sales tax hike in their 2010 budget, which is still under development. A state deadline of Dec. 20 is looming for the spending plan, which as of late Tuesday, called for a 7.6 percent increase in taxes to be raised.

Dec. 10, the public took potshots, one after another, at the idea of a sales tax increase.

The outcry prompted retraction of a motion to pursue the 1 percent sales tax hike and dedicate it to reducing property taxes and restore the county's depleted financial reserves.

George Weinschenk of Lake George blasted the board for constructing various buildings and undertaking projects like the county railroad, county airport, fish hatchery, development of Gaslight Village. He suggested that the supervisors fight state mandates, and demand concessions from the unions, including mandatory furloughs for employees, and make cuts to health care and pension benefits of county employees.

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