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Brasher officials pass resolutions regarding sales tax

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BRASHER FALLS - Brasher Town Board members say they support a county-wide referendum to let voters have a say in whether or not they favor a 1 percent increase in the county sales tax.

But, when it comes a proposed redistribution of sales tax monies, allowing the county to keep more, Brasher officials say, “Thanks, but no thanks.”

Board members passed two resolutions during their meeting this week, a move other towns and villages are also being asked to make, according to Supervisor M. James Dawson.

“There has been a lot of discussion lately... that the county Legislature has a big hole in their budget as a lot of people do,” Mr. Dawson said, noting that following meetings with the town supervisor’s and mayor’s associations, resolutions were sent to all towns and villages for their consideration.

County lawmakers had wanted a 1 percent increase in the sales tax, but their initial efforts were rebuffed by state Sens. Joseph A. Griffo, R-Utica, and Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, who said that they do not support tax increases and suggested Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo would not sign enabling legislation even if it passed the Senate and the Assembly, where it has the backing of Addie J. Russell, D-Theresa. Mr. Griffo has said he could support the sales tax increase if the county’s voters supported the move in a referendum.

“This is a very controversial resolution. I don’t know if you want to do this or not,” Mr. Dawson acknowledged. “I talked to a town on the river. They’re not in favor of it. They want the county to cut their budget. Many business people are not in favor of an increase in the sales tax.”

“I’m not in favor of it,” Helena businessman Robert Carter told board members.

The move would spread the pain to shoppers in St. Lawrence County rather than just property owners, according to officials, but Mr. Dawson had a suggestion for easing the tax burden on shoppers.

He said if the county was successful in getting a 1 percent increase in the sales tax they could look at offering $200 in purchases tax-free on the first Friday of every month.

“You could advertise that in St. Lawrence County you get $200 forgiveness. You could turn this around to your advantage, I think,” he said.

Mr. Dawson told board members that, because it was a controversial issue, they could mull over the proposition and talk about it again during their next meeting before deciding if they wanted to act on it.

“I don’t need to think about it. I think we should raise it 1 percent,” Councilwoman Margaret Burns said.

“It doesn’t mean it’s going to happen,” Councilman Mark Peets said.

The resolution was unanimously passed, as was a second that “strongly” opposed the proposed redistribution of sales tax monies by county officials. One of the options on the table to generate more revenue for the county is for them to keep one-third of town and village sales tax rather than passing it on to the municipalities.

“I am not in favor of them taking anything at all. I’m totally opposed to any redistribution,” Mr. Dawson said, noting that would pass the financial burden down to towns. In Brasher’s case, he said, it would equate to about $37,000.

The proposal also comes at a time when towns are finalizing their budgets, according to the supervisor.

“It’s the 11th hour. We’ve pretty much made our budgets up,” he said. “It’s not our fault that the county is in the position they’re in. Why should we be penalized?”

Certified copies of both resolutions passed by the board will be sent to St. Lawrence County Administrator Karen M. St. Hilaire, County Legislature Chairwoman Sallie A. Brothers, D-Norfolk, and Anthony J. Arquiett, D-Helena, the town’s legislator.

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