GLENVILLE — Incumbent candidates for the Schenectady County Legislature showed a willingness, during a candidate forum Wednesday night, to at least discuss whether towns like Glenville should get more sales tax money from the county.
Neither Democrat Rory Fluman nor Conservative Grant Socha said they wanted to end the current sales tax agreement before it expires in 2020, but both said discussions should begin sooner.
The candidates, along with three Republicans and Green Party candidate Peter Looker, spoke as part of a 90-minute public forum at Glenville Town Hall that was organized by the Schenectady County League of Women Voters and American Association of University Women.
"I'm for starting the dialogue now. It takes time," said Socha, one of three incumbents running for re-election in Legislative District 3, which represents Glenville, Scotia and Niskayuna.
Fluman said he'd like the towns to get more money, but nothing can be changed without the city of Schenectady agreeing to enter talks.
Town Supervisor Chris Koetzle, who has lead the town's effort in recent months to fight for more sales tax money, said he was surprised to hear the incumbents were willing to talk. The Town Board last week passed a resolution calling for talks — though under the current arrangement, the towns don't actually have a seat at the negotiation table when it comes to sales tax distribution.
The current agreement is actually between the county and the city of Schenectady, with the county keeping 75 percent of all sales tax revenue and the city 13 percent. The rest goes to the Metroplex Development Authority and the towns.
"It seems like they're moving our way," said Koetzle, a Republican running for re-election without opposition. "I'd like to see more, but they seem to be acknowledging that we have a point."
Republicans running for office this year have lead a call for changing the agreement, under which Glenville receives $2.7 million annually. That amount grows only minimally as the county collects additional sales tax revenue, however. All the Republicans running for the District 3 seats — Kurt Semon, Loretta Rigney, and Scotia village trustee Kevin Mathes — said the county government spends too much and should be sharing more of the sales tax revenue with the town.
"Our biggest issue is unfair distribution of sales tax and high county spending," said Rigney. "We will continue to go through all necessary channels to re-open the sales tax agreement."
Candidates for Town Board also appeared at the forum. Incumbent Republicans James Martin and David Hennel said the county should be giving the town more sales tax money, while Democratic candidates Michael Godlewski and Michael Aragosa said the problem in Glenville, where property taxes are expected to rise 1.68 percent next year, is town spending.
All four candidates agreed, however, that the town doesn't need more multi-family housing in residential areas.
Town Highway Superintendent Thomas Coppola, a Republican, spoke about his efforts to improve the town highway department. His Democratic opponent, Rick LeClair, did not attend the forum.
The election will be Nov. 7. The public can also learn about candidates at Vote411.org.