Oct 09, 2013 — It's budget time in St. Lawrence County again. The budget for 2014 raises the sales tax, allowing property taxes to come down. Officials say the county is finally on the way to fiscal health.
The St. Lawrence County budget has been the same story for a long time. County administrator St. Hilaire sums it up this way: "Every year, the costs were going up, but the amount of revenue was going down."
St. Hilaire says things got so bad over the past few years that "we were using our fund balance – or let’s say our piggy bank – to fill the gaps." Last year, the county raised property taxes by 14% to help fill their coffers.
But now, it’s another tax that’s expected to bring revenue to the county: sales tax. For years, St. Lawrence County has had a 3% sales tax. Most other counties in New York state have a 4% tax. St. Hilaire says that while the 1% different doesn't sound like much, it actually amounts to $14 million.
The governor signed legislation in August allowing St Lawrence County to increase its sales tax to 4% (add in the state portion, and the total sales tax would be 8%). And that allowed the county legislature to reduce property taxes in next year’s budget.
St. Hilaire presented a draft of the budget to county legislators Monday night.Alex MacKinnon, a Republican representative from Fowler, says he’s pleased with the draft: "I think it’s a better balance that what it was. It helps us to take advantage of the tourism industry. And it also helps to relieve the burden on the property tax payers, especially the farmers, who are paying a great deal of land tax."
Now county legislators will debate the budget and vote on changes. A final version is expected to be approved in November.