To The Editor:
This is a letter that was sent two weeks ago to all the St. Lawrence County Legislators , the County Administrator Karen St. Hiliare, and Senator Patty Ritchie. I only received an acknowledgement and feedback from Mr. Dan Parker, Mr. Mark Akin and Ms. Ritchie.
Dear Elected Official:
I am writing to voice my concerns about St. Lawrence County raising our sales tax by 1 percent.
While most people in this county are hugely in favor of this move, their arguments merely skim the surface of a very one-sided, discriminatory tax. I have personally heard people say Good, the Canadians (or students) can start paying more taxes and Well Im not getting a new car or appliance any time soon, so the rich people who can afford it will pay more.
These scenarios are far from the reality of an increased sales tax. People are not considering that almost every item except grocery store food has a sales tax placed upon it. Every family in this county buys toothpaste, shampoo, medicine and cleaning products. Many buy school supplies, tools or items for a home-based business. They pay car and home repairs which are a necessity, not a luxury. A family on a yearly salary of $40-50,000 has much less disposable income than a family making $100,000. We all pay the same price for these goods, but percentage-wise, the poorer family is paying more of their expendable income than the family with a higher income. This increased sales tax directly and brutally hurts the middle to lower income families of the county.
Not only will this have devastating effects on the budgets of middle class people, but it will have absolutely no effect on the many thriving not-for-profit corporations and organizations that call St. Lawrence County home. Clarkson University, St. Lawrence University, both SUNY campuses, Massena Memorial, Canton-Potsdam Hospital, Claxton-Hepburn are all enormous employers that do not pay sales tax.
No one on this board has touched upon the fact that Canada is actively pursuing lower tariffs in order to keep people shopping in their home country. Your estimates of increased revenue coming from this segment may end up being extremely bloated if no research is done on this subject. Canada wants its shoppers back, and I am not sure you are aware of this fact.
I believe a solution to this shortfall in the budget is not to increase sales tax, but to aggressively pursue taxation on dozens of properties that should legally be paying taxes or have a PILOT charged to them. Our county is extremely lax on implementation of PILOT agreements and the monitoring of current exempt properties. To claim this sales tax increase will eventually decrease property taxes is speculation at best. The county does not control school, town and village budgets and does not control the assessment process. You will not decrease property taxes unless you place more properties on the roll, simple as that.
I would urge all legislators to reflect on the fact that if you support this increase, you are alienating a large portion of your constituents, and in turn, you are giving a pass to big-businesses which are already exempt from sales tax and most property tax.
Margaret A. Brusso
PS: Mrs. Ritchie, I didnt mention the fact that almost any product can be bought on the four college campuses these days. They have become self-sufficient units, and thus the students are not even paying sales taxes like many would think they are.
I realize what a delicate situation the mayors, supervisors and boards of the area are facing, but if the county board does indeed raise this particular tax on its people, it should also guarantee that it will research ways other communities are making its rich tax exempt properties pay their share of the tax burden. A bed fee of $100 dollars per college student (that is not a county resident) could result in $1.1 million dollars in additional revenue, for example. Communities have done the same with hospital beds and offices. There are ways to see that the average county taxpayer is not gouged anymore.