Taxes and fees are hot topics for county

Proposals to increase taxes and fees generated conversation Thursday among legislators and represent
PHOTOGRAPHER:

Proposals to increase taxes and fees generated conversation Thursday among legislators and representatives of Montgomery County’s business community.

County Board of Supervisors Chairman Vito “Butch” Greco and other supervisors addressed more than 60 people during the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce’s 2008 State of the County breakfast at the Winner’s Circle.

Greco, R-Amsterdam, outlined successes in the county’s business community, citing as signs of growth plans for a new 635,000-square-foot Beech-Nut Nutrition Corp. baby food manufacturing plant and offices in the town of Florida and expansion of Power Pallet in Amsterdam to increase its workforce by 50 percent.

“Our future is bright,” Greco said.

Supervisors Barbara Johnson, Ronald Barone, John Thomas, Shayne Walters and Thomas DiMezza all provided an overview of issues addressed in the county board committees they chair.

But discussion that followed the addresses focused on increased taxpayer costs proposed to bolster county finances — topics that weren’t the subject of remarks by officials.

An April 22 hearing is scheduled on a plan to increase the mortgage recording tax from the current $7.50 per $1,000 of a mortgage’s value up to $12.50 per $1,000, projected to raise about $300,000 in new revenues.

Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors member Patricia Beck, publisher of the Leader-Herald of Gloversville, asked supervisors to describe how that proposal will mesh with the goal to provide tax breaks on new construction within the county, another proposal being studied by county lawmakers.

DiMezza, D-town of Amsterdam, who is one of the mortgage tax increase sponsors, answered that the county is one of only a few that doesn’t collect more than $7.50 per $1,000 in mortgage tax, and said the initiative is one of several others aimed at providing relief to property owners.

“We have to look at a way of reducing property taxes,” DiMezza said.

DiMezza added that he is expecting county lawmakers this year to address other revenue-generating proposals, including increasing the sales tax rate and implementing a $10 fee on two-year vehicle registrations.

Chamber member Judith Phetteplace from Judith-Ann Realty asked supervisors to consider other increases residents are facing, including gas prices and toll hikes on the state Thruway.

During remarks, some supervisors identified challenges they expect their legislative committees to address this year.

Charleston Supervisor Shayne Walters, chairman of supervisors’ general services committee, told the group that Montgomery County garbage that’s supposed to be handled by the tri-county waste authority MOSA is not being delivered. Haulers are believed to be taking garbage to facilities that charge less to drop it off. Walters noted that the county’s new bus service is now operating and said expansion of the service into Fulton County is being considered this year.

Walters also asked business leaders to consider the opportunity of advertising on the buses and brochures.

DiMezza, chairman of the board’s personnel, labor management and needs assessment committees, said his committees will be busy negotiating new contracts with workers this year.

Supervisor Robert McMahon, R-Canajoharie, chairman of the board’s education and government committee, said he intends to monitor state initiatives he believes are anti-productive, including the idea to make a law degree a prerequisite to serving as a local justice and a push toward countywide assessing services. McMahon said he believes such initiatives foreshadow local governments “losing control of our own destiny.”

Amsterdam 2nd Ward Supervisor Johnson, 3rd Ward Supervisor Barone and Glen Supervisor Thomas all identified the agencies over which their committees have oversight and provided summaries of 2007 activity.

Chamber members approached after the meeting sought to shine a positive light on Montgomery County.

“I think the future in Montgomery County is bright,” said chamber board member Attorney Charles Schwartz.

Phetteplace said housing prices below those of neighboring counties make Montgomery County “a great area to come to.”

Chamber President Debbie Auspelmyer said Thursday’s meeting was one of at least two opportunities business leaders will have to connect with lawmakers this year. The chamber is organizing an April 8 bus trip for business representatives in Fulton, Montgomery and Schoharie counties to meet with state legislators in Albany. Auspelmyer said those interested should call 853-1800 to register.

Categories: Schenectady County

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