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Waddington votes to exceed tax cap in case county withholds sales tax

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WADDINGTON - The Town Council voted Monday to override the state’s mandated 2 percent tax cap in case St. Lawrence County decides to withhold a portion of its sales tax revenue.

The county has traditionally kept half the proceeds from its 3 percent sales tax. The city of Ogdensburg receives 6.437389 percent of the remainder and the balance is distributed to towns and villages.

Following a public hearing, the council voted to exceed the tax cap, contingent upon the county’s decision.

“Because of the timing, we have to pass our budget in November. The county has to pass its budget in December,” said Council member Robert Dalton.

Next year’s $1,355,002 budget proposal carries a tax levy of $261,943, a $1,356 increase from this year, Mr. Scott said. The town’s proposed tax rate will decrease to $1.98 per $1,000 of property value, 1 cent less than this year.

If the county withholds a portion of the town’s sales tax revenue, officials have said the town could lose as much as $125,000 in revenue, and the tax levy could increase by 32 percent or the town could lose its fund balance in two years, Mr. Scott said.

The current fund balance is approximately $250,000, Mr. Scott said. He said the town has earmarked a large portion of that money for capital projects: $54,000 for restoration efforts to the Old Town Hall, $55,000 for repairs to Old Brookside Cemetery and $182,000 for Leishman Point development.

“The bottom line is the amount to be raised by taxes is $261,943,” Town Supervisor Mark Scott said. “Any increase of the tax levy is absorbed by the value of the town. We’re not doing it because we want to. Our budget is under the tax cap. We’re only doing it because of the county.”

The council accepted the tentative budget as preliminary. The town also decided to hire a part-time instead of full-time Department of Public Works employee.

“If we were to hire a full-time employee we would have to raise the tax levy,” said Mr. Scott.

The town also followed suit of the village and formally opposed the redistribution of sales tax by passing a resolution, to be copied and submitted to county legislators and administration.

“We don’t know if that is going to happen,” Mr. Scott said. “It’s still on the table. We hope that doesn’t happen. If it does, that would hurt us considerably.”

A public hearing on the 2013 budget proposal will be held during the next regular council meeting at 7 p.m. Nov. 5.

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