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Hamilton County sales tax bills may see movement in June

LAKEPLEASANT-There will likely be no movement on legislation to increase Hamilton County's sales tax rate by 1 percent until June, if at all, according to Dan MacEntee, communications director for state Sen. Betty Little (R-Queensbury).

The relevant bills were introduced April 27 by Little and state AssemblywomanTeresa Sayward (R-Willsboro) at the request of the Hamilton County Board of Supervisors, according to Board Chairman William Farber. The legislation, Senate Bill S4854 and Assembly Bill A7272, would increase the county sales tax rate from 3 to 4 percent.

Given the current 4 percent state sales tax rate, if the legislation passes, the combined sales tax rate in Hamilton County would increase to 8 percent. The change would bring in an estimated $766,000 per year to the county.

Farber said the Board of Supervisors did not want to increase property taxes, and so they saw raising the sales tax rate as an alternate means of generating revenue. However, if the legislation fails to pass, they would have to consider raising property taxes, he said.

Hamilton County Community Development and Tourism Director AnnMelious said she didn't think the proposed sales tax increase would negatively affect visitor numbers, which she said were "critical" to the local economy.

"It's a little early to tell," Melious said. "There are plenty of other counties with equivalent sales tax rates where the tourism is doing fine. My assumption is it probably will have no impact on tourism."

In Hamilton County, "Tourism is the local economy," according to Melious. The same can be said for most Adirondack communities, including resort towns such as North Creek in Warren County, Old Forge in Herkimer County, Tupper Lake in Franklin County, Lake Placid in Essex County, and Saranac Lake, which straddles Essex and Franklin counties.

Here are the current sales tax rates for those counties: Warren, 7 percent; Herkimer, 8.25 percent; Franklin, 8 percent; and Essex, 7.75 percent. The current sales tax rate in Hamilton County is 7 percent.

Essex County is also seeking an increase in its sales tax, by .25 percent, which would bring it to 8 percent. However, that is not likely this year, according to MacEntee, who cautioned that there is currently little support in the New York State Legislature for bills that raise taxes.

On April 27, Senate Bill S4854 was referred to the Investigations and Government Operations Committee and Assembly Bill A7272 was referred to the Ways and Means Committee.

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