Votes 8-1 to ask state to continue 1 percent increase
By Holly Crocco
The Putnam County Legislature voted 8-1 on May 2 to request that the state Senate and Assembly extend an additional 1 percent sales tax set to expire in November. The tax each year adds $14 million to county revenues.
The state Legislature ruled in 2005 that counties could impose an extra half a percent of sales tax for a two-year period. That was increased to a full percent in 2007 and has been extended every two years since. The vote by county lawmakers encourages the state to allow it to collect the extra 1 percent tax through November 2019.
Dini LoBue (R-Mahopac Falls) was the lone dissenting vote.
“I will be voting ‘no,’ as I usually do, because I believe we should be reducing the sales tax rate so we can be competitive with Connecticut and bring in more revenue,” she said.
Carl Albano (R-Mahopac) disagreed, saying that everyone who lives in or travels through Putnam benefits from the upkeep of roads and infrastructure, which sales tax helps maintain.
“The sales tax is an opportunity for everyone to participate in the monies that are needed,” he said, adding that without the sales tax revenue, the county will be faced with a shortfall.
“The only other place I can see that coming from is property taxes,” said Albano.
LoBue, however, said the county needs to institute cost controls and reduce spending to wean itself off the sales tax. “That extra 1 percent straps our hands in terms of economic development,” she said.
Albano said the two would have to agree to disagree, stating that he would rather see property taxes kept at bay than a 1 percent reduction at the cash register. “It just doesn’t hit me the same as property taxes,” he said.
Joseph Castellano (R-Southeast) said the sales tax is a fair way to maintain revenue. “It’s a tax that we all hate but it’s $14 million, and it’s a $14 million hole in the budget that we would have to cut and find somewhere else,” he said.
Chairwoman Ginny Nacerino (R-Patterson) said the sales tax shares the burden of infrastructure upkeep and various services with people who visit Putnam County, so it is not all borne on property owners.
Southeast Town Councilwoman Lynne Eckardt, a Democrat, spoke against the added sales tax. “I’ve been watching this for years; it was supposed to be temporary and it’s gone far beyond temporary,” she said. “I see it as a regressive tax.”
Eckardt added Putnam is not as competitive as Connecticut or neighboring counties in the Hudson Valley, and consumers go elsewhere.
Assemblywoman Sandy Galef (D-Ossining) has introduced a bill to extend the 1 percent tax, with Assemblyman Kevin Byrne (R-Mahopac) as co-sponsor. The state Senate’s Rules Committee has introduced the same measure.