The Herkimer County Legislature last week adopted a $96.4 million 2013 budget that includes a 0.9 percent property tax increase and an 1.26 percent increase in appropriations.
Legislator Gary Hartman, D - Herkimer, was among the 16 lawmakers who voted in favor of adopting the spending plan, but not without trepidation concerning the one percent of sales tax distribution the county withholds to cover the local share of Medicaid, a mandated program.
Hartman said sharing the one percent of sales tax distribution with the county’s municipalities would lessen the burden placed on them by the state imposed two percent property tax cap.
“It also makes sense because it’s the municipalities that provide the majority of services to taxpayers and it’s the businesses in those municipalities that generate the sales tax revenue,” he said. “The revenue should benefit those who generate it and those who provide services to them.”
Legislator Dennis Korce, R - Little Falls, said the county originally shared the one percent with the municipalities, but the burden to cover the local share of Medicaid made it impossible to continue.
“We shared it as long as we could,” he said.
Starting in 2002, Korce said the increase in Medicaid costs resulted in the county tax levy going “hideously out of control.” A six percent increase in the tax levy in 2002 and 2003 was followed by a 10.4 percent increase in 2004 and a 16.5 percent increase in 2005, he said. As a result, Korce said the county was forced to designate the one percent in 2006 to stabilize its tax levy.
“Withholding the one percent is a more fair way of paying for Medicaid than placing the burden squarely on the shoulders of the taxpayers of this county,” he said.
“The municipalities are facing the same budgetary concerns the county is, and they continue to provide a good number of services to the taxpayers of this county,” said Hartman. “They could do a better job at providing the services the taxpayers have come to rely on with the additional revenue.”
Hartman added even though the budget has been adopted, he remains hopeful the merits of the sales tax distribution, particularly the one percent, could be revisited and debated.