Montgomery County sales tax hike pushed forward, for now

Resolutions to increase sales and mortgage recording taxes were forwarded Tuesday but appear to have

Resolutions to increase sales and mortgage recording taxes were forwarded Tuesday but appear to have little chance of approval when they come up for a vote next week by the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors.

The measures, including an increase of half of a percentage point in the sales tax, are among several avenues supervisors are mulling to cope with a projected $10.5 million hole in the 2011 budget.

Board Chairman Vito Greco said he is developing a worksheet for department heads to make suggestions to reduce spending but said a half-percentage-point increase in sales tax also should be considered.

“We have to look at every avenue that we possibly can,” Greco said.

It’s unclear whether a sales tax increase will meet with the crucial approval of state legislators — state Sen. Hugh T. Farley, R-Niskayuna, and Assemblyman George Amedore, R-Rotterdam, have both said they won’t support a tax increase, and they’d have to introduce legislation authorizing one.

Greco said he doesn’t believe any sales or mortgage tax increase will garner state legislator support.

Supervisors sitting on the Personnel and Finance committees appeared split Tuesday on a variety of measures and ultimately passed them, with no recommendation, on to the full Board of Supervisors for consideration at the meeting scheduled next Tuesday.

Amsterdam Town Supervisor Thomas DiMezza argued that a sales tax increase of half of a percentage point is more fair than asking property owners to foot the bill.

He described the increase as a half cent per dollar that people would spend on taxable goods, or five cents on $10 in spending.

A mortgage recording tax increase of 75 cents on each $100 in a property’s value would cost $750 more on a $100,000 home.

That reflects a $4 increase in a mortgage payment over a 20-year period, which DiMezza said won’t hinder somebody’s plans to buy a home.

“It’s not going to be a deal-breaker,” DiMezza said.

If the county fails to increase revenues through other means, the alternative would be an estimated 16 percent increase in property taxes, which would cost roughly $300 on a $100,000 home, DiMezza said.

In comparison, people faced with a half-percentage-point increase in sales tax would have to buy $60,000 worth of taxable items to pay an additional $300 in sales tax, he said.

“We’re really in bad shape. Without help from our Legislature, you’re looking at a big increase. How many more people can we put on the street to collect unemployment?” DiMezza said.

Minden Supervisor Thomas Quackenbush said he doesn’t plan to support a sales tax increase and said he believes there’s money to be found within the current budget.

During an earlier study of budgets over a five-year period, Quackenbush said it was clear that department heads were overestimating expenses and underestimating revenues.

Charleston Town Supervisor Shayne Walters said he supports a sales tax increase because it takes some of the pressure off of property owners.

“If you don’t take the burden off the landowner, the landowner is leaving,” Walters said.

Root Town Supervisor John Thayer said he believes the county government has to do more to cut its own spending.

“The problem isn’t the taxing ability, the problem is the spending ability,” he said.

The board is expected to revisit these issues during their meeting Tuesday.

Categories: Schenectady County

Leave a Reply