Morning Read: A 20% tax hike for Franklin County

There is a growing disconnect between the debate over taxes in Albany and Washington and the reality on the ground in county seats across the North Country.

The bottom line is that costs for government are spiraling upward, in part because the recession has sparked far more demand for crucial services — everything from housing assistant to heating and food aid.

Big league politicians have planted a flag on the high ground of No New Taxes.  Which means that local politicians often have no choice but to pass along costs to the only taxpayers they can tap.

Unfortunately, property taxes often hit people who don’t have much actual cash.  Seniors on fixed incomes, families who are land-rich and income-poor, locals who have inherited family camps on waterfront.

Last Friday, that reality came home in a big way when Franklin County legislators totted up a 20.42% property tax increase.   And that’s after laying off more than a dozen people.

This from Jessica Collier at the Adirondack Daily Enterprise:

The budget features a definite reduction of 16 county jobs, with three to six additional ones that may be eliminated, county Manager Jim Feeley said at a Board of Legislators meeting Thursday.

Five of the eliminated positions are employees being laid off from the county nursing home: two certified nursing assistants, a dietary technician, a housekeeper and a launderer.

Because of reductions in aid from Albany, lawmakers were forced to boost overall property tax revenues by roughly $2 million, even though the overall Franklin County budget was down slightly.

One issue that gets raised a lot in these debates is the plague of unfunded mandates.  I’ll be posting about that later today.

In the meantime, what do you think?  Is this a reasonable price to pay, to help our neighbors with crucial services during hard times?  Or an unsustainable tax burden?  Or maybe both?

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7 Responses to “Morning Read: A 20% tax hike for Franklin County”

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  1. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    We had a choice in the last election. Howie Hawkins of the Green Party had a plan to reduce the burden of property tax. Too bad the MSM was more interested in baseball bats and the horse race than on actually talking about real issues that affect real people. Maybe there would have been several months of discussion on how property tax could be reduced.

    Mea culpa?

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  2. Bret4207 says:

    Wow, 20%!!! That’s just insane.

    IMO trying to pay most of the cost off onto landowners is doomed to failure, especially in the North Country. I just don’t see how we can continue on that line. Yes, we’ll always have property taxes, but that horse has been beat into compost. Obviously we need to cut costs where possible, but I wonder if it isn’t time to consider the sales tax as a more equitable way of funding needed programs.

    We have people that truly need help, especially this time of year. Since our cost of living and taxes are already so high here any increase will mean suffering for someone. Weeding out the dead wood and asking for something back from those taking public assistance might help. Of course the courts have barred the later and the former is “difficult”. Once again, we’re stuck.

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  3. Mervel says:

    “Is this a reasonable price to pay, to help our neighbors with crucial services during hard times? Or an unsustainable tax burden? Or maybe both?”

    I think it IS a reasonable price to pay, to help our neighbors, IF it is actually doing that. What is this paying for? HEAP is funded by the state and federal Govt, Food Stamps are the same, so what are these increased local taxes actually funding?

    You have to go down program by program and salary by salary and ask is this really directly helping the counties poor and vulnerable?

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  4. JDM says:

    “Is this a reasonable price to pay, to help our neighbors with crucial services during hard times?”

    How about rephrasing the question:

    “Is this a reasonable amount to give to inept lawmakers to enhance their power base?”

    No.

    It has nothing to do with helping anyone but politicians who can’t spend their way out of a paper bag.

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  5. Pete Klein says:

    St.Lawrence County should apply to boost its sales tax by 1% for an 8% total.
    Hamilton County has already put in its request to do the same, moving it from 7% to 8%.
    But more importantly and looking at the long term, the state should fund all its mandates, including mandates coming out of SED, and pay for those mandates through the income tax – or get rid of the mandates.
    The state legislators are liars and maybe even criminals when they pass yet another great idea and push the cost down to the counties, then brag about how they are holding the line on taxes.

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  6. dbw says:

    Our situation is such in the medium term that we will have the worst of both worlds higher taxes and fewer services, until we get our deficits and state debt under control. The sales tax increase is one idea. I would also support a county income tax as an alternative to increasing property taxes. High property taxes hurt the working poor and elderly most.

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  7. Jim says:

    The county really needs to examine its funding priorities. Most people don’t realize the county is taking a high risk gamble applying for this EB-5 program specifically for the risky ACR project in Tupper Lake. It was just recently revealed that the county has already spent $115000. of our tax money on this program and was ready to spend another $6000. If this questionable project ever gets off the ground the county/IDA is rushing headlong to grant it a PILOT program to the tune of $50 MILLION or so to pay for the developers’ RESIDENTIAL infrastructure costs. If that happens and the infrastructure gets put in place and the project doesn’t pan out the county and specifically the Town of Tupper Lake will be looking at tax increases that will make the latest 20% hike seem like peanuts. IMO this is a risk the county shouldn’t be taking with taxpayers money. Legislators need to do their homework on this one before making a $50 MILLION dollar mistake. As the APRAP report shows, Franklin county has one of the lowest per capital income levels in NY state, we shouldn’t be subsidizing a wealthy out of state developers profits with a PILOT program, Period!

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