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Passing The Buck
April 28, 2011 - Dunkirk OBSERVER
Posted by Nicholas L. Dean
The Chautauqua County Legislature passed a resolution Wednesday night to ask the state for an increase to the local sales tax rate.
Also a part of the resolution was language dealing with what's been called the county's "Hold Harmless" to towns, villages and cities.
As described by County Executive Greg Edwards, the "Hold Harmless" is an annual payment totaling $2.1 million from the county to local municipalities. Edwards has said the payment is made from the county's coffers each year. He has also called it the payment of tax revenue from a tax which the county is no longer collecting.
As such, Edwards proposed eliminating the "Hold Harmless" as part of the sales tax resolution.
The Audit and Control Committee, however, changed his proposal to phase out the "Hold Harmless" over three years rather than eliminate it all at once.
Neither of those proposals passed the legislature last night. The resolution ended up passing the legislature with an amendment by Chuck Nazzaro, D-Jamestown.
Yes, the legislature voted 15 to 7 to ask the state for an increase to the local sales tax rate, but the county will not be eliminating the "Hold Harmless" at this time.
At the start of the meeting, several local elected officials took to the microphone to address the body on the "Hold Harmless" proposal. One of the officials was Don Steger, the town of Pomfret town supervisor. What follows is the text of his comments to the legislature.
From Don Steger on April 27, 2011:
"I'm here as town of Pomfret supervisor and as a member of the Chadwick Bay Regional Development Corporation. I hope you've all received the correspondence of our resolution from Chadwick Bay.
I'm here opposing the Audit and Control Committee's proposal to reduce and ultimately eliminate the 'Hold Harmless' portion of the payments to municipalities. There's 45 municipalities on here that receive anywhere from $1,000 to $479,000 as part of this one-fifth of the three-quarter percent increase in the sales tax.
What this is doing is this is shifting the tax from the sales tax to a property tax because, ultimately, I can't see any of these communities on here being able to absorb the reduction in funding.
This is something that goes in line with something that you hear from the county all the time -- that the state is passing down mandates and reductions and more costs for the county to absorb. This is simply what the county is doing at this point by reducing and ultimately trying to eliminate the 'Hold Harmless' tax you're just passing it on down to the local municipalities.
So I guess just so everybody's aware, anyone tonight who votes in favor of this is ultimately voting for a tax increase in our local taxes. It may not happen this year, it may not happen the following year, but, ultimately, by the reduction in revenues to any municipality, they're going to have to make it up and ultimately it will be made up in property tax if this payment to the municipalities is eliminated."
--End Of Steger's Statement--
The amendment proposed by Nazzaro to maintain the "Hold Harmless" payments was passed unanimously by the legislators present Wednesday, though Bob Scudder, D-Fredonia, did later speak against it during the meeting. The resolution as a whole was ultimately passed by the body, though not unanimously.
Along with Nazzaro, fellow Democrat and Audit and Control Committee member Tom DeJoe, D-Brocton, supported the sales tax resolution as amended. They were the only two Democrats to do so. The rest of the 15 votes in favor of the resolution were from the full 13 members of the Republican majority caucus.
Both Bob Duff, R-Sheridan, and Vickeye James, D-Jamestown, were absent from the meeting. Independence Party member Scot Stutzman, of Jamestown, left the meeting shortly after it started for a family emergency.
The seven "no" votes were cast by Keith Ahlstrom, D-Dunkirk; Lori Cornell, D-Jamestown; Paula DeJoy, D-Jamestown; John Gullo, D-Fredonia; Shaun Heenan, D-Dunkirk; Maria Kindberg, D-Jamestown, and Minority Leader Rudy Mueller, D-Lakewood.
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Pomfret Town Supervisor Don Steger addresses the Chautauqua County Legislature during its regular April business meeting.