Ogdensburg City Council passes resolution opposing changes in sales tax distribution formula
Tuesday, January 14, 2020 - 9:13 am

By JIMMY LAWTON
North Country This Week

OGDENSBURG -- Ogdensburg City Council has passed a resolution at its meeting Monday opposing any change in the sales tax distribution formula, which they say could be devastating to the city.

As a city, Ogdensburg has the option of negotiating a share of sales tax from the county's take or keeping the sales tax generated within the city.

With the state facing a massive budget deficit, countylegislators fear state lawmakers are looking to balance the budget on the backs of local government through unfunded mandates that will likely be passed down to the counties.

To address the issue St. Lawrence County is likely to take a bigger share of the sales tax, but that move could be devastating to Ogdensburg, which is nearing its constitutional tax limit.

But city councilors say the county should refrain from passing the buck. Councilor Dan Skamperle went as far as to accuse the county of pitting towns and villages against the city.

“I would suspect that St. Lawrence County is trying to pit some of the towns and villages against Ogdensburg and things like that,” Skamperle said. “They’re little shyster games played by these politicians.”

Ogdensburg's new mayor, Jeffrey Skelly, said the a change to the sales tax formula is completely unnecessary. He said the city will fight any change to the sales tax distribution. He said the city uses fewer county resources than other municipalities. He pointed out that the city has no county roads, does not have sheriff's patrolling its streets and doesn't have county-owned bridges.

"It's a good gig for the county," he said.

At the council’s Jan. 13 meeting, Councilor Michael Powers said he blamed the state for the problem.

“They have been kicking this Medicaid can down the road, the State of New York, the executive and the legislature, and now we’re left to pick up the pieces," he said.

As it stands, sales tax in St. Lawrence County is 8% of the cost of purchases. The state takes half of that and the county collects the other 4% which it then divides between itself and the municipalities in a specific, and perhaps convoluted, formula.

Half of the first 3% of the 4% total received back from the state goes to the county. The other half of the first 3% is divided, with 6.4% of that going to the City of Ogdensburg and the remaining 43.6% divided between the towns and villages.

The remaining 1% of the 4% total received from the state is divided, with 83.6% kept by the county, Ogdensburg getting 6.4% and the remaining 10% doled out in shares to the towns and villages.

The resolution was forwarded to all of the county's state representatives, who will need to approve the extender for the additional 1% sales tax.