The town board approved to send a letter to the state seeking approval for authority to issue a transfer tax when property is sold. If the state gives the town this authority, the town can issue a tax of up to two percent of the property sale value on new purchases. This money will go into a fund for the purchase and conservation of lands in the town. Westchester and Putnam Counties currently have this authority in New York State.
Councilor Dave Laxton, who represents the town on the conservation committee, said that the tax will be explained further in a referendum if the state grants the town the authority and that it will be similar to the Welcome Stranger Tax in Massachusetts that taxes newcomers in order to keep conservation lands.
He said that the tax will only be applied to new purchases in which the purchase value is above the median house value in the town. He estimated that the tax will not effect houses valued at less than $400,000.
"We have a lot in this town that we have already paid for," Laxton said. "This gives people moving in the opportunity to contribute to what we have already paid for."
Councilor Ellen Kulik was concerned about the current tax rates and was the only board member to oppose sending the letter. She was also worried that it would not just be newcomers affected, but those that grew up in Skaneateles and were moving back or someone that is moving from one house in town to the other.
Laxton responded to the concern by saying that the board is just voting on writing a letter to the state to get the authority to apply the tax, not on the tax. Before the tax can be applied, there will be a public vote and further explanation on how it will effect town residents.
A spokesperson for The Citizens for Preserving the Character of Skaneateles endorsed the idea, saying that those who are opposed to the idea may not fully understand what it is.
Town Supervisor Phil Tierney also backed the tax, explaining that the very thing that attracts newcomers and developers to the area is being destroyed by their moving in.
"(The tax) will be contributing to the conservation of what we have left," he said.