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Sun., Oct. 4
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St. Lawrence County legislators frustrated by lack of sales tax increase


CANTON — St. Lawrence County’s options for handling its fiscal problems have narrowed since both of its state senators have refused to introduce a measure to allow it to raise the local share of the sales tax.

“We are disappointed and frustrated,” said Legislature Chairwoman Sallie A. Brothers, D-Norfolk. “It’s been very tiresome to hear the same words over and over again.”

County officials met personally with Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome, and had a telephone conference call with Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, to try to convince them of their need for a sales tax increase.

“The same sentiments were given by both,” Mrs. Brothers said.

Sen. Griffo told her he was following the lead of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo for no new taxes.

“They also got elected on mandate relief, and they haven’t done any of it,” Legislator James A. Bunstone, D-Potsdam, said at a Monday meeting. “If they want to stay with no new taxes, let’s move on to mandate relief. I doubt it will happen.”

In his conversation with county officials, Sen. Griffo also deferred to Mrs. Ritchie as St. Lawrence is her home county.

That probably means the coming representation of Sen. Elizabeth O’C. Little, R-Queensbury, later this year as a result of redistricting likely will not help the county in its quest for a sales tax increase either, Mrs. Brothers said.

“After hearing Sen. Griffo, I’m not sure he or Sen. Little have any influence,” she said.

Sen. Griffo suggested to county officials they go into deficit financing, but that would mean endless borrowing, Mrs. Brothers said.

A potential bill that would leave sales tax increases up to public referendum is not expected to get very far, at least not during this state legislative session, County Administrator Karen M. St. Hilaire said.

The county’s fund balance could dip below $1 million by the end of this year. It is waiting on $3 million in tribal compact funds that have been held up because of a dispute between the state and the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation over gaming exclusivity.

County officials will join with their counterparts from Franklin County in the governor’s office June 28 to discuss the issue.

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