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Warren County sales tax payout changes eyed

Wealthy towns get richer, poor towns, poorer

— Warren County Administrator Paul Dusek is looking into the possibility of establishing a new formula for distributing county sales tax revenue to its 11 towns that some county supervisors contend would be fairer way of divvying it up. His research was prompted by supervisors who contend that the present way of appropriating it — on the basis of a town’s total real estate value — isn’t fair, particularly to the smaller, rural communities without expensive lakefront property.

Lake Luzerne Supervisor Gene Merlino has spearheaded the idea of establishing fairer sales tax revenue distributions. He has contended that the rural towns have the same financial needs to maintain infrastructure, but the towns like Lake George, Bolton, Horicon Hague and Queensbury — with plenty of expensive lakefront properties — get far more than their fair share. To date, town supervisors of the communities with ample lakefront property have balked at the idea of re-distribution.

Merlino has also noted that the lakefront and resort property in the county is escalating remarkably in value, while other properties haven’t, leading to an ever-greater gap between the property-rich and property-poor towns.

At a recent Board of Supervisors meeting, he circulated data showing that such a wealth disparity has been increasing dramatically for the counties’ towns over the past 27 years. His figures indicated that Luzerne’s share of income tax revenue dropped by nearly one-third over that time.

Dusek said last week he sympathized with the concerns, particularly how the gap was getting ever wider in revenue distribution.

“We need to answer the questions of how to improve revenue for Warren County’s smaller towns,” Dusek said, noting that the appropriations on assessed value has been the traditional formula.

He observed that reduced sales tax revenue over time means a heavier tax load falls on the property owners in the town’s without pricey property.

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