Little tax change a big increase

Publisher's Notebook

Former State Assemblyman William Parment never liked the idea of a sales-tax hike.

Small change can add up, especially in Chautauqua County last year. Recent figures show county lawmakers, when debating whether to up its sales tax rate in 2015, fell short by about $700,000 in predicting the windfall from the 0.5 percent increase to 8 percent.

Turns out county coffers collected $61.7 million, an increase of 12.7 percent — or $7 million, according to a report on 2016 issued earlier this year by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.

Compared to neighboring counties of Erie and Cattaraugus, which showed decreases in their collections by 0.2 percent and 3.9 percent, the hike was a success for the Mayville spenders.

It never would have happened without the support of state Sen. Catharine Young and Assemblyman Andrew Goodell. For the higher tax to happen, both state representatives wanted Chautauqua County to lower its property tax rate. That promise was fulfilled.

But raising the sales tax never sat well with Goodell’s predecessor, William Parment. For years, Parment fought former County Executive Greg Edwards and the Legislature by not offering his support for the increase from 7.5 percent to the current 8 percent. The tax hike was further put off when Gov. Andrew Cuomo took office in 2011, when the governor would not endorse any tax increases.

Parment, however, considered the sales tax regressive, hurting those especially earning wages below the county’s median income of $37,000 and raising a family.

So yes, property tax rates — on a county level — did decrease. But seeing the jump in the sales tax amount from 2015 to 2016, shows if you live here, you probably ended up paying more.

Synonymous with orange

With all the discussions on consolidations and regionalism in Chautauqua County, it is often interesting to look at what’s happening elsewhere in terms of government downsizing.

As was well publicized in January, voters in Depew approved maintaining its village for another four years. Now, those who backed keeping the government, admit the cost is far too high and are looking at the prospect of transitioning the village to a town.

That’s a much tougher — and even more unlikely — proposition with New York state red tape.

Farther east, the fifth-largest city in the state — Syracuse — was eyeing a proposal to merge its government with Onondaga County. A study released by an independent commission found savings of $9 million to $23 million in annual costs for both the city and county, which would be led by one executive and 33 legislators.

The report, syracuse.com and The Post-Standard noted, shows the Central New York region as bleeding population with 24,500 fewer workers there today than there were in the 1990s. “Our region’s current economic and fiscal path is not sustainable,” the report concluded.

Less than one week after the findings were issued, however, the Onondaga County Legislature announced the merger referendum would not go before voters. “It has no support,” Legislator Kevin Holmquist told syracuse.com. “You have over 500 officials in Onondaga County. To my knowledge, one supports this. That, of course, is the county executive, who stands alone. … I’m unaware of any official at the city level, the town level, the village level that supports this.”

Proving once again that local government, for the paid elected officials, by the paid elected officials — not the people they serve — is more often the norm for New York state.

John D’Agostino is the OBSERVER publisher. Send comments to jdagostino@observertoday.com or call 366-3000, ext. 401.


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