The majority of the county Board of Supervisors appears settled on increasing the county sales tax next year, despite opposition they are hearing to the idea.
Of the board’s dominant Republican majority, only Frank Thompson of Milton and Philip Barrett of Clifton Park have come out against increasing the combined state and county sales tax from 7 percent to 8 percent. The increase was proposed last week as part of the $321 million tentative county budget.
Backers say the hike is necessary to balance the budget, since earlier budgets have drawn down the county fund balance — its reserve of money unspent in previous budget years — to avoid tax increases. If the sales tax were increased, county officials said county property taxes wouldn’t have to go up next year.
“I’ve been getting phone calls and emails, most saying they’re against it,” said board Chairman Tom Wood, R-Saratoga. “I appreciate the feedback, but no other viable alternatives have emerged.”
Wood said he’s not aware of any Republicans other than Thompson and Barrett who are against the sales tax increase.
On Monday, the board’s Law and Finance Committee met in Ballston Spa and reviewed the proposed budget, but made only minor changes. The panel didn’t directly discuss the proposed sales tax increase.
Thompson, who chairs the Law and Finance Committee, said instead of raising taxes the county should be looking at things like requiring employees to pay more of their medical insurance premiums. Supervisors should also be looking at selling county resources like the unused county landfill in Northumberland, he said.
“We’re sitting here on a $14 million landfill that’s just a storage bin,” said Thompson, who is out of office at the end of this year after losing a September primary.
Supervisor Arthur Johnson, R-Wilton, said the county has no choice but to increase revenue, and the sales tax is the fairest way.
“I never like to talk about any tax, but I think they’ve made all the cuts they can make,” he said.
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