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   SAVANNAH and SODUS (Oct 27 10) – (Sodus resident Patrick McElroy responded to an article about ideas to save taxes that were discussed at Tuesday’s (Oct 25) supervisors’ Finance Committee meeting. He addressed his concerns to the board of supervisors. When Savannah Supervisor Ken Lauderdale responded, an interesting dialogue and sharing took place.
   Here is the text of that e-mail dialogue, used with permission from McElroy and Lauderdale, and edited gently for clarity. – John Addyman)

.To: Wayne County Board of Supervisors
From:  Patrick McElroy, Sodus
Date:  Oct. 27, 2010
Subject: Article in WayneCountyLife.com on Taxes 

Dear Wayne County Board of Supervisors;

   As quoted in WayneCountyLife.com: “Kubasik had two other ideas that could raise $5.4 million – a tax on home delivery of propane and fuel oil, and a hotel and motel tax (which is paid by visitors, not residents). “We’re one of the few counties that doesn’t have them,” he said. If you are considering this tax, you must include cottage rentals, summer home rentals, camping sites and boat captain cottage / room rentals (not covered under tax law) which are paid by visitors, not residents.  
    Why do you want to kick small business in the stomach by having us increase our prices to compensate for more taxes? Visitors will only pay so much and then they stay outside the county. Why do you want me to pay more tax for my fuel when the price of fuel is already through the roof? Doesn’t New York State have a tax on fuel already?
    We are also one of the few counties who have excessively high taxes.
    Also, will the following result in a tax reduction?  
       Wayne County, N.Y. — at a special Board of Supervisors meeting on Sept. 28, a  
       revised local law governing the management of solid waste was adopted by an 11-4
       vote. The majority of the board supported changing curbside pickup of recyclable
       materials from being handled by the Western Finger Lakes Solid Waste Authority to
       private haulers. The revised law takes effect Jan. 1.
   Shouldn’t you be considering some of the following instead of finding ways to tax the population?
  • Have you openly discussed: Consolidating county and town services?
  • Consolidating local government?
  • Reducing the taxpayer burden on healthcare benefits?
    Assemblyman Bob Oaks and his colleagues in the Minority Conference have a plan called “Road to Freedom.” The plan contains proposals that will work to
  • reduce the undue burden of high property taxes in our state
  • increase the quality of education for New York’s students
  • enhance New York’s economy and create more jobs
  • strengthen laws to protect our community by civilly confining dangerous sexual predators
  • reform New York’s broken government to make it more efficient, open and accountable.
    And as quoted by our great Senator Mike Nozzolio:  “NO NEW TAXES: New York State has the dubious distinction of having the heaviest tax burden of any state in the nation. Those who currently control our State government in Albany have increased taxes by an astounding $13 billion during the past two years, suffocating families and senior citizens and driving out people and jobs.
   “I have consistently opposed and voted against new taxes. Destructive tax hikes must be stopped so that we can make our state a more affordable place to live and work. ACTION: I voted against all new taxes included in both the 2009 and 2010 budgets.”
   Why are we so special in Wayne County whereas we are not adopting the same reforms?
   I look forward to your response

Thanks,
Patrick McElroy
 _______________________________________________________________________

From: Ken Lauderdale 
Sent: Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Subject: Taxes

Dear Mr. McElroy,

   I thought that since I precipitated some of the conversation on tax relief for our County residents, I should write a short note in response.
   First let’s start with the issue of sharing the sales tax revenue the County receives with the school districts to offset some of their costs. This is always a contentious issue as it is seen as taking something away from the schools to reduce the County tax burden. When the statement I made is read carefully, the question revolves around the premise that Wayne County is leaving money in Albany that would be directed to the school districts in the form of aid and reimbursements - if the school districts did not have the revenue from the sales tax.
   The extension of that is, that if the County tax rate could be reduced 5.4 X $.22 or $1.19/thousand taxable value, would the school districts have to raise their tax rate by that much to recover their lost revenue; or, would the state “kick in” by formula the missing revenue and offset the loss? This question has plagued the issue since long before I came into office. However, since New York State takes an enormous amount of revenue out of the area through fees and taxes, I am not reluctant to champion a plan that has our area on equal footing with other areas of the state.
   Having our “fair share” – even if it travels a circuitous route through Albany – is better than having less than our fair share. But, let’s be clear, I don’t believe we have nearly enough information to make any proposal. In the event there would be a net tax reduction for the residents Wayne County by changes in the distribution, it seems clear to me we should do the things that benefit our community.
   Below is from the WayneCountyLife.com article: 
   Then Supervisor Ken Lauderdale ( Savannah ) asked about saving tax dollars by not giving county school districts the $5.4 million out of sales tax revenue that has been traditionally shared.
   Sales taxes the county collects bring in $33 million in revenue, $5.4 million of which now goes to school districts, and $5.7 goes to towns and villages. The remaining $22 million goes toward county expenses.
   “If we reduce the $5.4 million dollars we give the school districts, and each $1 million of savings is 22 cents per $1,000 in assessed valuation, we can reduce taxes by $1.10 overall,” said Lauderdale. “Would the school districts have to come up with the $1.10?”
   “No,” said Plant. “It would be less.”
   Kubasik explained that the school districts would have a shortfall in the first year of the program, but after that, the state would pick up the difference in state aid. “There would be a blip in the first year after we did this,” said Kubasik. “After that, things would level off (because) the school districts would be getting more aid from the state.”
    Now to some of the other issues reported as discussed at our Finance Committee meeting. First, the issue of a tax on heating fuels used in the County by the residents. There is no way I can support such a tax (or for that matter any other increase in taxes) as this is probably one of the most onerous taxes imaginable. We have folks making choices between food, medicine, heat and taxes trying to stretch their meager funds to cover necessities and with no possibility of being able to pay all their obligations. Believe me, I get it! And, I can’t believe that a “room” tax is in any way a significant source of revenue for the County and do not see any way I will support that idea.
   Finally, let me lament and whine a bit on your shoulder. We see constant criticism of government operating “in the shadows” and “behind closed doors” and “secretly”; yet, when there is an open and candid discussion the first thing that happens is a plethora of criticism that the discussion is inappropriate and a pre-cursor to increasing taxes.
   I expect there is a bit of paranoia that the only objective of elected officials is to keep their jobs and raise taxes. I can assure you that I have never heard a comment from a fellow Supervisor that advocated increasing taxes or in any way abusing the taxpayers or anyone else in Wayne County. Mr. Kubasik’s comments were to share what others have done. However, Mr. Kubasik does not have a vote in Wayne County’s Finance Committee. I don’t in any way believe any one of the Supervisors is seeking to increase the tax burden on our citizens. I would appreciate a bit of latitude to discuss all the options without being judged as seeking another way to increase the burden.  
   Anytime you would like to discuss other contentious issues like the investment in the new Public Safety Building or the County’s pass-through of funds for the Hotchkiss Project, I would be glad to meet with you. None of these projects are undertaken capriciously and while some shout “17 Million spent while taxpayers are hurting” there is more to the story than spending money for the sake of spending money.
   We all have different standards that determine what’s appropriate and what’s not, and the extremes are not likely to be satisfied by a collaborative process that requires some compromise, but I am proud of the work done where I had some influence and am glad to explain it.
   Thanks for taking the time to write the note and feel free to call me anytime.

Ken Lauderdale
________________________________________________________________________

From: Patrick McElroy
To:  Ken Lauderdale
Sent: Wed, October 27, 2010 1:28:53 PM

Subject: RE: Taxes

Hi Ken,

Any tax relief is appreciated and it is excellent that you support relief. Because most of the county meetings are during the day I cannot participate….I can only read the board meeting minutes and/or the local rags. I’d love to be able to sit and listen at any of the meetings….get the real facts that are not tainted by the writer.

With all that said, I do have a high tax bill and would really love to see it lowered. Look, what can I do as a citizen to assist our county leadership lower our taxes?

Thanks,
Patrick McElroy
________________________________________________________________________

From: Ken Lauderdale
To: McElroy, Patrick
Sent: Wed, October 27, 2010 7:56:18 PM
Subject: RE: Taxes

Patrick,

   I was hoping to respond to the question about how the individuals could be helpful in reducing the tax burden in the area. Candidly, I am really stuck. I’ve been aggressive in looking for ways to save but am regularly stymied by the old “it’s mandated, you know…”
   At the last Board meeting, Jim Marquette shared a New York Association of Counties presentation that pointed out that mandates consume in excess of 75% of the County revenue collected from property taxes. Note, that the presentation skipped over revenue collected from sales taxes and fees. But, even with that adjustment, the amount of burden attributable to mandates is staggering.
   Add to that we, i.e., the County, have caused ourselves to have a significant number of “self-inflicted mandates”; for example, if you have an un-mandated County Home Health Care Agency, you are then mandated to have certain levels of staffing, etc.
   So, how does the average citizen assist in reducing taxes? I’ll attempt to come up with a couple of suggestions. I guess first would be to keep the requests for services reasonable. For instance, I’ve been told that it costs $1000/mile to “stripe” a County road, and that once you start to stripe the road you must continue indefinitely. Admittedly, having the road striped is helpful and adds to safety. The question of course is: Is the cost/benefit ratio reasonable? And, someone can always jump up and challenge a decision not to stripe on the basis that any increased measure of safety is priceless. So, having reasonable expectations of government is one way to help.
   Another way could be to offer to assist the local government where one has some expertise. Being a member of the Zoning Board, for example. But I guess, to me, the most important way to help is to be informed, share the information with friends and neighbors, and on election day support those candidates that will reduce these mandates to local schools and government.
   I am a believer in the good nature and good sense of humankind in general. Now sometimes my belief gets shaken; however, I believe we got into this mess primarily by exercising good intentions that added 2% or 3% (you know, what would that hurt? It isn’t that much.) a year until we have literally reached the tipping point.
   Now, this probably isn’t very popular, but I believe we will have the most success backing away from the precipice at – guess what – 2% or 3% a year. I just don’t see any place to lop off a government function, even with consolidations, that will drive an immediate 10% net change downward.
   And, let me add, no one is more frustrated by this than I am. But a commitment to continually reduce the cost of government, even at that snail’s pace, should be one of the criteria used to judge a candidate asking for your vote.

Thanks,

Ken.

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