GLENVILLE — Town officials are pursuing their demands for towns to receive a larger share of the Schenectady County sales tax, even though county officials have shown no willingness to even discuss the matter.
The Town Board on Wednesday adopted a formal resolution criticizing the current sales tax distribution agreement and making an “urgent request” for a meeting among town supervisors, city and village mayors and county officials, “to commence negotiations on a new sales tax distribution agreement.”
Under the existing system, which has been in place with periodic renewals since 1998, the county keeps 75 percent of sales tax revenue, with 13 percent going to the city of Schenectady, 8.75 percent going to the Schenectady Metroplex Development Authority, and towns and villages splitting the remaining 3.75 percent.
The current agreement, which began in 2012 and runs through late 2020, gives towns and villages a little less than $7.8 million each year to split, divied up based on municipal property values. That means Glenville receives about $2.7 million annually each year.
“It is in fact a cut, because there is no factoring for inflation,” said town Councilman James Martin, who has been outspoken on the issue, as has Town Supervisor Chris Koetzle. Koetzle began campaigning for change this fall as town and county budgets were being developed.
Koetzle pointed out that in Saratoga County, where about half of the county sales tax is shared with municipalities, towns with much smaller populations than Glenville’s 29,000 receive as much money as Glenville does, or more.
Koetzle, Martin and others on the Glenville Town Board are Republicans, while the County Legislature’s majority are Democrats, as is the leadership in the city of Schenectady.
County officials have shown no interest in reopening negotiations, and pointed out that the city of Schenectady would also have to agree to an early re-opening of negotiations.
“Glenville’s resolution not withstanding, the agreement is between the county and the city of Schenectady, and that’s by state statute,” said county spokesman Joe McQueen. Neither County Legislature Chairman Anthony Jasenski or Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy has expressed any interest in re-opening the agreement, he said.
He said there are 11 counties in New York state that don’t share any of their sales tax, and the county keeps less than 31 other counties.
“The question of what is fair is obviously in the eye of the beholder, but the county believes what it does is fair,” McQueen added. “The county is always more than willing to work with localities to find ways to reduce or share or cut costs, but the county is not interested in giving a handout to Supervisor Koetzle.”
Town officials argue that there have been two significant changes for municipalities since 2012: the state-imposed real property tax cap that started in 2014, and limits the towns’ ability to meet rising operating, retirement and health care costs, and the county and city’s receipt of new revenue from the Rivers Casino & Resort. Revenue from the casino is expected to exceed $2 million each year for both the county and the city, but the towns do not share in it.
Koetzle acknowledged the town has no legal standing to insist on re-opening the agreement. “But morally and ethically, [county legislators] represent us. This isn’t a county versus town issue, this is a what’s best for the taxpayer issue,” he said.
While it has become an election year issue, Koetzle vowed that he will keep pursuing more sales tax revenue after the election.