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Sales tax committee mulls three options

Onondaga County mayors and village residents gathered last Monday to persuade the Sales Tax Review Committee not to cut much-needed sales tax revenue funding to the county's smallest municipalities next year.

The committee is charged with revising the current 10-year sales tax agreement that will expire Dec. 31. Under the current agreement, the county keeps 38 percent of the sales tax revenue it receives back from the state, then disperses the rest among the city, towns and school districts. The county is under no legal obligation to share its revenue -- there are several counties in the state that don't -- and villages receive their share from the towns, not the county directly.

The March 15 meeting was the first in a series of Monday morning review committee meetings during which representatives from the most affected entities will make their case for keeping their portion of the sales tax revenue.

County Legislature Chair Jim Rhinehart, who also chairs the sales tax review committee, said around 150 people attended the meeting, which lasted four hours and included presentations by officials from many of the county's 15 villages.

The sales tax revenue which trickles down to the villages totals less than 3 percent of the total revenue the county receives from the state, but in many villages those monies make up a third or more of the annual operating budget. Mayors from throughout the county reminded the committee that village residents enjoy more unique services than taxpayers in towns or the city -- but those services would be in serious jeopardy without the sales tax money.

As a former mayor of the village of Skaneateles, Rhinehart said he understood where the mayors stood, and Monday's presentations did not hold any surprises for him.

But there is the looming budget shortfall and a question of equity among taxpayers to take into account.

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