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Guest column: County must provide fair share of sales tax

Guest column: County must provide fair share of sales tax

Towns lose out on outdated distribution formula
Guest column: County must provide fair share of sales tax
Glenville Town Supervisor Chris Koetzle in 2013.
Photographer: PETER R. BARBER

Schenectady County does not share its sales tax fairly with the towns and it’s time to revisit the agreement that leaves municipalities underfunded across the county.

Unlike sister communities, where the likely sales tax share with their municipalities is between 40 percent and 62 percent, Schenectady County shares a paltry 3.75 percent of all new sales tax generated.

One example of the difference between a Saratoga County town and a Schenectady County town can be found by looking at Malta, which has about half the population of Glenville, but gets twice the sales tax from its county.

In Ballston, they actually get more sales tax revenue from Saratoga County than Glenville gets from Schenectady County, despite being only a third of Glenville’s size.  

Worse, the inequitable agreement that this Legislature enacted in 2012 is for an unprecedented eight years and it extended two previous agreements that will have starved towns of any sales tax revenue growth for 16 years upon this coming expiration. 

Since 2004, the county’s growth in sales tax collection went up nearly 80 percent, from about $37 million to a 2018 projection of over $65 million.

The county is estimating another $1.5 million in sales tax revenue next year, of which it will hoard $1.1 million of it and give the city of Schenectady about $193,000 and Metroplex $131,000.

This share formula leaves Glenville with just $13,000 out of $1.5 million in new county sales tax revenue.  

Worse still, much of the county’s sales tax growth is coming from towns like Glenville.

We have worked hard to expand our economic activity to diversify our revenue streams and reduce the burden on the property tax payers. But the county’s “greed and feed” mentality leaves communities starving for the resources needed to sustain progress.

It’s the local governments that bear the burden of the costs that are associated with growth, such as public safety, public works infrastructure and highway investments.

Nonetheless, Schenectady County scarfs up the money to feed its growing spending habit, which can be seen in its massive increase of patronage jobs over the years.

In fact, our county has 70,000 fewer people than Saratoga County, yet Schenectady County spends $20 million more in its budget. If Schenectady County shared with its municipalities at the rate of most other counties, towns could make the additional investments needed to sustain growth and eliminate part or all of the town tax.

Now is the time for the county to reopen the sales tax agreement since, as most agree, the new casino created a “game changer” that wasn’t considered in the last agreement.

Specifically, the casino’s impact money is stuffing $5 million of new cash into the city’s and county’s coffers. Another change that has occurred since the last agreement was enacted is the state-imposed property tax cap that limits communities’ ability to invest in infrastructure or capital projects. 

The only growth for most towns across the state must be in the sales tax revenue line, and Schenectady County towns do not get their fair share.  

Residents in this county has asked themselves why the taxes in Schenectady County are so high.

The fact that the county hoards and spends all the new sales tax dollars is the reason and that leaves our communities short on resources.

Legislators Jim Buhrmaster and Brian McGeary have demonstrated leadership on this issue and attempted to introduce a resolution calling on the Legislature to reopen discussions of the unfair formula. But the Democrat majority rejected the motion.

The county legislators have the power to reopen this unfair agreement.

Before you vote in November, perhaps you should ask where your county legislator stands on this important issue.

Chris Koetzle is the supervisor of the town of Glenville.

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