Hamilton County raises sales tax

LAKE PLEASANT – Businesses in Hamilton County are collecting more sales tax after county supervisors and the state Legislature approved measures that increased the sales-tax rate from 7 percent to 8 percent.

Board of Supervisors Chairman William Farber of Morehouse said the county made the move for fiscal reasons. Supervisors had been making budget cuts for several years, expecting to ultimately get some relief from state-mandated expenses, but that relief hasn’t come, he said.

“Hamilton County had backed itself into the corner,” Farber said.

Four percent of sales tax collected statewide goes to state government. The remaider is kept within local government. Hamilton County expects to net about $800,000 annually from the 1 percent increase.

Farber said the county Highway Department would receive much of the new funding after experiencing years of cuts.

Farber said most sales tax is collected from tourists and not the county’s 4,500 year-round residents, because most locals do major purchasing out of the county.

According to the 2010 United States census, the county has a vacancy rate of 74 percent, meaning about three-quarters of homes are owned by seasonal residents or otherwise unoccupied most of the year.

Anna Smith, director of the Adirondacks Speculator Region Chamber of Commerce, said businesses have not been vocal with concerns about the increase.

“I have honestly not heard much as far as concern,” Smith said.

State Assemblyman Marc Butler, R-Newport, said the state Legislature approved the increase after home rule was approved. Butler said the county had a better idea of what was needed.

“They know their financial positions,” Butler said.

Hamilton County had maintained itself while getting only 3 percent of sales tax revenues far longer than most other counties, Butler said. He said some counties have reached 5 percent.

“I think it is fairly minor increase, still comparably lower to other places in the area,” Smith said.

Essex County, the only other county completely inside the Adirondack Park, recently raised its sales-tax rate to 8 percent from 7.75. Lewis and St. Lawrence counties, which sit partly in the Park, also raised theirs to 8 percent recently. Eight of New York’s 62 counties have sales-tax rates lower than 8 percent.

Arthur Cleveland is a reporter for the Leader-Herald newspaper, based in Gloversville.