Tax agreement between Ogdensburg, SLC could bring substantial funding to local towns, villages
BY JIMMY LAWTON
North Country This Week
A sales agreement between Ogdensburg and St. Lawrence County could bring a substantial amount of funding to St. Lawrence County’s towns and villages, but the city wants assurances that the county will assist in offsetting the loss with shared services.
In emails exchanged between the county administrator offers insight into the county’s plan for sales tax and the city’s concerns over other partnerships between the entities.St. Lawrence County is offering to provide a three-month extension of the existing sales tax agreement with the county from Dec. 1 to Feb. 28.
“This will provide the opportunity for the city to make all necessary notifications and filings to collect its own sales tax beginning March 1, 2022,” a letter signed by St. Lawrence County Administrator Ruth Doyle says.
“This will occur in the absence of a Sales Tax Revenue Sharing Agreement between St. Lawrence County and the City of Ogdensburg, as the current New York State Comptroller approved agreement expires on November 30, 2021. The plan put forward by the county following the expiration on November 20, 2021 remains subject to any review or objection that may be raised by the Office of the State Comptroller,” Doyle writes.
The sharing agreement proposed by the county would modify the distribution of the “last one percent” of sales tax beginning March 1.
Under the current plan the county keeps 83.67 percent of revenues generated by the “last one percent” of sales tax. Ogdensburg collects about 6.43 percent and the towns and villages split 10 percent.
Under the county’s new proposal, 16.43 percent would be split between the towns, villages and the city with population and assessed valuation used to determine shares.
However, the city is seeking home rule legislation that would let them keep the 1 percent collected within city limits.
According to the letter from Doyle, if the city is successful in that endeavor the county would no longer contribute a share of the 16.43 percent to the city.
“The county would like to see the City of Ogdensburg reach fiscal health and thrive in the future. We are all keenly aware how challenging these times and decisions can be for a municipality,” the letter said.
Doyle pointed out the county’s efforts to assist the city with environmental clean ups on the Ogdensburg waterfront, shared property auctions and potential dispatch takeover, which will be piloted from July 11-14th.
“The City looks forward to obtaining the County’s support as we determine the most efficient path toward advancing the home rule legislation needed for the City to collect up to an additional 1% of sales tax within its boundaries. Since the County’s first request for similar legislation several years ago, the City has always supported the County, to include the most recent renewal,” City Manager Stephen Jellie said in an emailed response.
Jellie offered appreciation for the deal, but said Ogdensburg is still facing some critical issues which require county support.
He added that the city and the county must reach a deal on dispatch transition in a timely matter and reach out to the NYS Financial Restructuring Board for a portion of grant funds to offset costs.
He also asked for some movement on the property tax jurisdiction transition.
“We must make a decision and begin action in the near future if the city is to successfully transition at the beginning of the year 2022,” he said.
Finally, Jellie said the city cannot continue the local law enforcement model of the past.
“The pyramid of service is, and has been, upside down for many years with the City providing the base of service, supported by the County Sheriff and augmented by the State Police,” he said. “That pyramid must change so that the largest agency, the State Police, provide the base of service and are preferably supported by one well funded, staffed, trained and equipped local law enforcement entity, instead of several.
Jellie says that role would be best filled by the county.
“In my opinion, that entity is the St. Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office. Grants funds are readily available for the study of these types of innovative approaches and the NYS Financial Restructuring Board continues to indicate their support for such initiatives and endeavors that will enable local government to operate more efficiently.”
Both the city and county are likely to discuss the plans at their next respective meetings.