Retail

Essex Co. sales-tax hike gets final OK

By: LOHR McKINSTRY

ELIZABETHTOWN — Essex County lawmakers handily approved a one-quarter percent jump in the county sales-tax rate on Monday.

The increase will take effect Dec. 1, raising the county sales tax from 3.75 to 4 percent.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the Home Rule Act bill last Tuesday, giving the county approval to increase its sales tax. It had previously passed both houses of the State Legislature.

Combined with the state’s 4 percent, the new sales-tax rate in Essex County will be 8 percent. It is in effect until Nov. 30, 2015, when it will expire unless renewed.

No one from the public attended the special meeting called by the County Board of Supervisors to discuss and vote on the increase.

“That’s the 4 percent (total) we’ve been fighting for, for awhile, four or five years,” County Attorney Daniel Manning III said. 

“Vendors will be notified by the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance when it’s going to happen.”

He suggested the county send a news release so the increase can be publicized.

STATE RETIREMENT 

“It essentially represents around $2 million (more),” County Manager Daniel Palmer said. “It’s safe to say it’s desperately needed. The additional revenue represents 12.5 percent on the budget’s tax levy, so without it, your tax levy is up 12 percent without doing anything else.”

Palmer said they estimated sales-tax revenue for this year at $23.9 million without the extra revenue.

“It could be a significant reduction in what we might have to increase on the property-tax levy,” Supervisor Margaret Bartley (D-Elizabethtown) said.

Palmer said they have lost $4.5 million in revenue sources since 2008, but there was an increase of $2.7 million in the county’s State Retirement Fund contribution in the same period.

“That’s something we have no choice in. New York State Retirement contributions are required.”

SHARED BY TOURISTS 

Part of the increase will be paid by tourists, Palmer pointed out.

“Essex County is a tourist-driven county. We have over a million visitors who come in on a yearly basis. This increase in sales tax is an opportunity to collect extra funding from those visitors.”

Supervisor Thomas Scozzafava (R-Moriah) is usually opposed to tax increases, but he said he supports this one.

“This certainly, in my opinion, is much better than an increase in the property tax.”

The board voted 17-0 to OK the sales-tax hike, with Supervisor Daniel Connell (D-Westport) absent.

Manning said he would immediately file the required paperwork with the County Clerk’s Office and the state to make the increase official.

Email Lohr McKinstry:lmckinstry@pressrepublican.com

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