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Franklin County sees drop-off in mortgage tax revenue

SARANAC LAKE - A number of local municipalities will receive payments in the coming weeks from a one-percent mortgage tax enacted on certain real estate transactions in Franklin County.

The towns of Santa Clara, Tupper Lake and Harrietstown and the villages of Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake will receive portions of the $202,000 collected from October 2008 to March of this year.

But the total amount of mortgage tax revenue is nearly $85,000 less than previous pay-outs; a decrease County Legislator Tim Burpoe of Saranac Lake says is linked directly to the housing market.

"People aren't buying and selling houses, and we're probably getting closer to the bottom of the market," he said. "The numbers are what they are. Unfortunately, the less money we get, the less we can redistribute out to the towns. That's the unfortunate part of the whole thing, is that it trickles down."

State law allows counties to collect up to one percent in mortgage tax, with 50 percent of that revenue being returned to towns and the other half split between county and state.

Legislator Paul Maroun of Tupper Lake says the mortgage tax is one way to generate revenue for towns and villages.

"What I like about this mortgage tax is that a lot of times if you take a mortgage or a home equity loan, the bank pays the closing costs," Maroun said. "The person isn't really paying for it, that way the local governments are getting some revenue and it's not costing the buyer."

Towns receiving mortgage tax payments are allowed to use those funds however they see fit. Burpoe says most towns will opt to place the money in their general fund.

Franklin County, however, must use the funds to pay down debt taken on by improvements to the Franklin County Jail and county offices in Malone. Last year, the county installed energy-efficient windows at the Malone offices and plans are in the works to expand the Brewster Street entrance to the county courthouse.

Harrietstown and Saranac Lake will receive approximately $40,000 in mortgage tax revenue, while the village and town of Tupper Lake anticipate about $3,500 and $20,000, respectively. The Town of Santa Clara will receive $13,300.

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