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St. Lawrence County administrator Karen St. Hilaire Photo: Julie Grant
St. Lawrence County administrator Karen St. Hilaire Photo: Julie Grant

St. Lawrence County leaders want sales tax hike

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St. Lawrence County Legislators adopted a plan this week to raise the sales tax from three to four percent over the next five years. County administrator Karen St. Hilaire recommended the move. She says a one-percent hike in the sales tax would mean the county could reduce property taxes.

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Julie Grant
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"If that happened, I actually see a scenario where we could reduce our taxes by 28 percent over the next five years and at the same time grow our fund balance to $10 million, which I think is a reasonable amount to keep. And I think that is a scenario…could work."

St. Hilaire says St. Lawrence County is one of only five counties in New York with a 3 percent sales tax rate - every other county is at 4 percent or higher.

Right now, St. Lawrence County keeps half of what it collects in sales tax, and distributes the rest to the local towns and villages.

St. Hilaire says the county could keep that money. Or state lawmakers could give it the authority to raise its sales tax.

"If we can't get the approval for that extra  one percent, we still need the revenue, so our option then is to go and take back what you've given to the towns and villages. I think people don't want to take it from the towns and villages, but you don't have much left to cut, you've already cut it to the bare bones. You can't cut mandated services."

County legislators are asking the state to allow counties to increase their sales tax up to four percent, and are asking for the authority to raise their own sales tax.

Republican Alex MacKinnon told the Watertown Daily Times that St. Lawrence County could reduce the tax levy almost dollar for dollar, if a sales tax hike is approved. Legislators say at the same time, the fund balance would start to grow again.

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