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Waddington will not support county sales tax increase

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WADDINGTON — The Waddington Town Council says it will not reverse its position on St. Lawrence County’s proposal to raise its sales tax to generate more revenue.

Board of Legislators Chairman Jonathan S. Putney, D-Waddington, sent a letter to the town dated Jan. 21 encouraging towns and villages to support the increase.

The county has prepared a five-year plan showing how it could reduce property taxes if it had a sales tax of 4 percent. With a sales tax hike, officials say, the tax levy could drop by about 14 percent in 2014.

Under the current distribution formula at 3 percent, the town of Waddington annually collects approximately $200,400. At 4 percent, the total would increase by $18,368.

But Town Supervisor Mark Scott said the 2013-2018 projections are dependent on too many factors.

“For all of this to work, their assumptions have to be true,” Mr. Scott said. “They show pension costs would decrease significantly. I don’t see that happening.”

The increase in sales tax would also help rebuild the county’s fund balance from 1 to 3 percent of the total budget.

“But that is not going to make a difference if they are not going to control their spending,” Councilor Robert Dalton said.

Instead, the Town Council supports the recommendation of Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome, to form a task force of business leaders to come up with possible cost-cutting solutions.

“If you analyze the average numbers, the sales tax for an average family would be more than the increase in the property tax that we saw this year,” Mr. Scott said. “The solution is the state has to provide more funding for programs that are currently mandated, and the county needs to take a closer look at cutting costs wherever possible, such as auditing their utility bills and health care costs.”

While the increase in the sales tax would increase the amount of revenue allocated to the towns and villages, the Town Council fears the impact it will have on small businesses.

“We know that merchants could be hurt by the 1 percent increase,” Mr. Scott said. “On larger ticket items such as boats and cars, that extra 1 percent could mean a few extra hundred dollars for buyers. We do have people in Waddington who sell larger ticket items. We obviously don’t want to see their sales decrease. We want to see them increase.”

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