The Warren County supervisor who pitched a plan to raise the county’s sales tax to 8 percent as a means to cut property taxes has decided to back off the proposal.
Queensbury at-Large Supervisor Doug Beaty said there were too many uncertainties about support of the plan, including dependence on school districts to spend the new revenue to defray their property tax burden, to move forward at this point.
“I still think it’s a good idea and would work. But there’s just not the trust needed for it to go forward,” he said.
The proposal was scheduled to be discussed at Friday’s regular monthly meeting of the Warren County Board of Supervisors, but Beaty said he did not plan to initiate a discussion about it or push for any further analysis.
Beaty and Queensbury resident Travis Whitehead, a member of the Warren-Washington Counties Industrial Development Agency, had put together the proposal and Beaty led a discussion about it with the county Board of Supervisors in September. He asked that supervisors look it over and discuss it after the November elections.
They proposed raising the sales tax in Warren County from 7% to 8%, still on par with or lower than the majority of New York counties, and splitting the new revenue (estimated at between $17 million and $19 million annually) between school districts and municipalities to lessen property tax burdens.
County residents would come out ahead, because an estimated 40 percent of the sales tax paid in the county comes from tourists and visitors, so money from non-residents would be used to offset local property taxes.
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But the plan has a lot of moving parts, including a reliance on school districts to use the money to defray the tax burden instead of just adding it to their revenue stream. Beaty said a lot of voters he talked to before the election had concerns about that occurring, while school officials in some districts had concerns about relying on the county.
“The feedback I was getting was that nobody trusts anybody,” Beaty said.
Queensbury School Superintendent Doug Huntley said his district administration had not yet decided whether to support the proposal.
“We never reached a conclusion other than a need for continued study,” he said.
Whitehead said he was perplexed that some on the county board were criticizing it without having sat down with him or Beaty to discuss the details.
He said the numbers showed the plan would work, if the school districts used the new money as proposed.
“We were very discouraged by the feedback we got,” Whitehead said. “They obviously didn’t trust we could get a property tax decrease out of a sales tax increase.”