State legislation still in committee could hamstring Ogdensburg's sales tax collection effort by $1.5 million if not approved
BY JIMMY LAWTON
North Country This Week
OGDENSBURG — A piece of home rule legislation floating around in state committee could leave Ogdensburg $1.5 million short of what it hoped to collect in sales tax next year.
The bill sponsored by Sen. Patty Ritchie and Assemblymen Mark Walczyk would allow Ogdensburg to collect 2.5 percent of sales tax generated in the city, rather than 1.5 percent. That’s a difference of more than a million dollars annually, according to Mayor Jeffrey M. Skelly.He said if the bill does not make it to the floor before the end of the legislative session, it will likely mean deeper cuts to city staff in the coming year.
Typically home rule legislation moves through the state with little resistance as it only impacts the locality from which it originated. However, the bill remains stuck in committee.
As the state works to sort through literally thousands of bills in the next few days, Ogdensburg remains hopeful it doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.
St. Lawrence County legislator David Forsythe said he really hopes the bill passes.
He said the City of Ogdensburg will need the money when it begins collecting its own sales tax and that they have been given little choice in the matter.
“It’s really important for them,” he said.
Sales tax collection is one of many areas where Ogdensburg is looking to improve its long-term financial stability.
The city has made controversial deep cuts to staff and reorganized the city by reducing the number of departments and administrators.
The city has successfully reduced taxes and worked to pay off debts and clean up properties.
Efforts are underway to share additional services with the county including police dispatch and negotiations continue that would allow the county to take over sales tax jurisdiction for Ogdensburg, which could save the city hundreds of thousands of dollars annually.
However, Mayor Skelly says collecting the additional 1 percent in sales tax is crucial.
The legislation would not raise taxes, but would shift distribution. In 2014, the county got approval to collect an additional 1 cent in sales tax, bringing the tax rate to 8 percent. The legislation, if approved, would allow Ogdensburg to keep the extra penny on sales tax generated in the city.