A taxing situation
The night before the Onondaga County Legislature voted on a proposal to reevaluate its distribution of sales taxes to towns, villages and schools, the Clay Town Board made one last plea that the entity reconsider taking the money away from municipalities.
“I spent the day getting some numbers together so that the residents of Clay can get an idea here of what the sales tax distribution means to the people of Clay,” said Councilor Joseph Bick at the board’s May 3 meeting. “Currently, in 2009, the town of Clay received $12 million in sales tax revenue, the vast majority of which was used to offset county property taxes. In 2009, for town tax on all taxes parcels in the town of Clay, the town collected $10 million. They’re separate and one offsets the other currently.”
But that distribution would change under the proposal before the legislature.
“The current tax levy is $3.16 per thousand That means that, for a house assessed at $150,000, your current county tax is roughly $474 a year,” Bick said. “If we lose the $12 million in property tax credits, your county property tax will increase by $3.80 per thousand, which, for $150,000, your property tax from the county will go up $570. That’s a 120 percent increase in county taxes.”
Bick said such an increase would have a huge impact on local taxpayers.
“If you’re like me and you have a house with a mortgage with [taxes paid out of an] escrow [account], that will raise my mortgage $50 a month,” he said. “If you find this as upsetting as I do, if you live in the town of Clay or not, if you live outside the city of Syracuse, take an opportunity to call your county legislator and tell them that. Tell them you have no interest in having your county taxes increased 120 percent through the back door Our taxes will go up if we get no sales tax revenue.”
Despite Bick’s plea, which was supported by the rest of the town board, the county legislature voted unanimously the next day, Tuesday May 4, to approve a proposal that would cut towns, villages and schools out of the sales tax distribution fully over the next three years. In the first year, the county will increase the amount of sales tax it retains by about 50 percent to roughly $194 million. That amount would gradually increase to about $212 million by the third year, when the county would keep 98.5 percent of the regular 3 percent sales tax. Payments to 19 suburban towns and 15 villages would decrease 66 percent in the first year to about $24 million. In the second year, the payments would decrease to $7 million.
After that, towns and villages would receive no sales tax money. Payments to the city of Syracuse, meanwhile, would decrease about $10 million in the first year to $55 million. In the second year, the city would get $66 million. After that, the city would take 95 percent of a 1 percent sales tax that is authorized every two years by the state, about $67 million or more.
Bick said Sunday that he hadn’t seen any numbers to indicate the burden on Clay’s taxpayers would be any less than what he had stated at the May 3 meeting.
“There will be a meeting early this week with the legislature to discuss that,” he said.
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.