Return home

Panel to discuss sales tax distribution changes

DAN GUZEWICH, Staff writer
Posted 10/29/16

County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr.’s bid to evaluate sales tax money distribution among the county, cities, towns and villages is about to formally launch.A nine-member committee of county, …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Panel to discuss sales tax distribution changes


County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr.’s bid to evaluate sales tax money distribution among the county, cities, towns and villages is about to formally launch.

A nine-member committee of county, city and town representatives is scheduled to meet Nov. 7 to start for what could be a contentious process.

The county’s sales tax is now divvied up by formulas that have been in place for many years.

Starting in 2018 that could change, potentially angering municipal leaders whose shares could be reduced.

‘The county needs more money’

Picente’s reason for putting the panel together is simple. He says, “The county needs more money.” Sales tax is the county’s largest revenue source.

The county official’s earlier comments on this topic have signaled his desire to increase the sales tax take for the county, the cities of Rome and Utica, and some of the larger towns to reflect higher needs to deliver services.

Towns and villages, on the other hand, are not necessarily keen on the idea of giving up what has been a steady revenue stream for many years.

Towns may disagree

“We’re looking to maintain the revenue allocated to the towns and villages in Oneida County,” said Lee Supervisor John Urtz, who is one of three town supervisors on the panel that will make a report to the county executive. He said towns and villages contribute the most financially to the county through property taxes and sales tax collected within their respective boundaries compared with what the cities generate.

Urtz said maybe towns and villages should be getting more sales tax money, and not less.

“We’ve got to see where it goes,” he said of the committee. “We have no idea at this point.”

Picente has talked on and off about sales tax distribution for several years, but he kicked the conversation into high gear in his 2017 budget message to county legislators on Oct. 5.

Next year he proposes to increase spending slightly — less than half of a percent — while holding the line on the amount of money collected in property taxes. He projects a $2 million decrease in the county’s sales tax share over what was budgeted for this year. He has not proposed raising taxes in the last four years.

“My office has spent the last four months reviewing every town and village budget as well as other formulas throughout the state,” he said in his address. “I will now assemble a committee to come together and make a final recommendation for a new formula.”

Changes called essential

He added, “This change is essential not just for this government, but for all major governments in this county. If this formula does not change, the next budget you approve will require an override of the tax cap and draconian cuts in all non-mandated services.”

Picente then said he wanted a final recommendation by Jan. 1. However, because it has taken longer than initially anticipated to pull the committee together, it is possible that this target date is now overly optimistic.

When it comes to legal standing and sales tax distribution, the county and cities have a say, but towns and villages do not. Approvals will be needed from the 23 county legislators, who represent a mix of urban, suburban and rural areas, and the two city councils. The state comptroller’s officer will also have to weigh in on any change.

Committee members

Committee members are the county executive, Board of Legislators’ Chairman Gerald J. Fiorini, R-7, Rome, Majority Leader George E. Joseph, R-10, Westmoreland, Minority Leader Philip M. Sacco, D-12, Deerfield, Rome Mayor Jacqueline M. Izzo, Utica Mayor Robert M. Palmieri and three town supervisors. The supervisors are Robert J. Meelan of Kirkland, Scott M. Musacchio of Verona and Urtz. They were selected by the president of the Oneida County Association of Towns.

Picente has made it abundantly clear that he wants a formula change.

Here’s what he said about sales tax distribution in his State of the County address in March: “Our current formula does not properly reflect the functions and roles governments play in this county. The current structure doles out dollars to all levels with no regard to true economic impact. A new formula must reflect the needs and contributions of the larger governments.”

​Joseph said that it is time to at least take a look at the current arrangement and assess if it is working the way it was intended.

“There is no deal,” he said. “There is no plan.”

​Sacco said he is looking forward to taking part inn the discussions. The former Deerfield town supervisor said he’s aware of the concerns towns have.

Urtz said sales tax allocations should not be made in the context of moving smaller governments to look at consolidation if their sales tax revenues shrink. The supervisor says is up to municipalities to make that decision on their own.

“They all have their identities,” he said.


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here