ELIZABETHTOWN - A one-quarter-percent increase to Essex County's sales tax was approved Friday by the state Legislature and now only needs a signature from Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Cuomo has declined to approve any tax increases in recent years, but county Chairman Randy Douglas said he is confident Cuomo will approve this increase, which would bring the total sales tax in the county up to 8 percent.
All of Essex's neighboring counties already collect a total 8 percent sales tax.
County Manager Dan Palmer said in an email it would mean nearly $2 million in additional revenue for the county.
"This was desperately needed to increase our revenues without going on to the property tax," Douglas wrote in an email. "(County Attorney) Dan Manning, Dan Palmer and (county Treasurer) Mike Diskin worked hard on this package and I am proud of my lobbying efforts on behalf of Essex County explaining our need for this to Governor Cuomo, the NYS Senate and NYS Assembly."
Douglas said he's had numerous conversations with Cuomo on the issue.
"He truly understands our desperate need," Douglas wrote. "The bottom line is none of us want to raise taxes, however this is the least intrusive tax financially on our local taxpayers who are struggling to survive during these tough times. We are working so hard to find any ways to increase revenues to help stabilize property taxes."
State Assemblyman Dan Stec, R-Queensbury, sponsored the Assembly version of the bill, and he said he is also hopeful Cuomo will sign it.
"I know this has been a bill that's been floating around in years past, and one house or the other or the governor was unwilling to consider it," Stec said. "It looks like the planets were in alignment this time to allow the bills to both move forward."
Stec noted that the state passed home-rule legislation, so the decision to implement the sales tax increase will still be up to the county board.
"From here, if the governor signs it, it goes back to the county board for them to have the option to increase it," he said. "The decision is still a local one. I'd rather let local government have as much control over what happens as possible."
The approval came along with a regular extension to the county's existing 3.75 percent sales tax. The state also collects 4 percent sales tax in each county.