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Counties won’t get to set sales tax rate

Wednesday, April 17, 2013
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— The familiar process of extending sales tax rates is in motion this month after a plan to give counties control of the rates was removed from the final version of the state budget.

State legislators have introduced legislation to extend current sales tax rates for Schenectady, Fulton and Schoharie counties, allowing them to continue to charge a county sales tax rate above the base rate of 3 percent. The current process requires counties to ask their local state legislators to introduce bills authorizing these rates, which expire after two years, and they generally fly through the state Legislature.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo introduced a plan in his state budget proposal, which the state Senate supported, that would have allowed counties to set the rates without approval from the state Legislature. The Assembly rejected this proposal during the budget negotiation process, and it was not in the final budget language approved at the end of March.

This sales tax approval process was an issue for Saratoga County in 2011, when state Sens. Hugh Farley, R-Niskayuna, and Roy McDonald, R-Saratoga, and Assemblyman James Tedisco, R-Glenville, indicated they wouldn’t sponsor legislation allowing the county to bump up the sales tax rate by a percentage point.

Saratoga County Board of Supervisors Chairman Alan Grattidge, R-Charlton, said he still wants counties to have control over this process, even if Saratoga County isn’t in the same fiscal situation as two years ago, which prompted the request to raise the sales tax rate.

“We’re not anticipating having to increase our sales tax rate,” he said.

Saratoga County has a total sales tax of 7 percent, the lowest in the Capital Region. The state rate is 4 percent and county rate is 3 percent.

Albany, Schenectady, Schoharie, Montgomery and Fulton counties all have an 8 percent total sales tax, which includes the base state rate of 4 percent and, except in Schenectady County’s case, 4 percent county rate. Schenectady County has a 3.5 percent county rate and a 0.5 percent sales tax to fund the Schenectady Metroplex Development Authority.

Regarding the annual process, Farley said, “It seems to be a waste of time.”

Schenectady County Legislature Chairwoman Judy Dagostino said it was unfortunate the power to extend the rates wasn’t handed over to the counties.

“The governor’s proposal would have streamlined the process and made it more efficient,” she said. “However, we are appreciative of the support we’ve received from our state delegation, who has consistently introduced the legislation on behalf of the county enabling us to continue providing essential services to the residents of our community.”

Legislation extending Schenectady County’s sales tax rate has not yet been introduced in the Assembly. Legislation extending the rate in Montgomery County has not been introduced in either chamber of the Legislature

Traditionally, this legislation is passed quickly at the end of session in May or June.

 
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