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Ogdensburg council supports raising sales tax, with one dissenter

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OGDENSBURG — Most, but not all, members of the City Council thinks that an increase in the St. Lawrence County sales tax will help cure Ogdensburg’s deep fiscal woes.

At its most recent meeting, the council approved a resolution supporting home-rule legislation that would allow the county to increase the local share of the sales tax from 3 percent to 4 percent.

“Our solution would be, if we ever got that sales tax, it would be a tremendous help to the city and the county,” Deputy Mayor Michael D. Morley said. “By that not being there, it is costing people jobs. The county is desperate for revenue sources.”

Ogdensburg, like many other north country communities, faces a steep hike in its property tax this year to keep city services at their current level — a proposed 10.5 percent increase. As council members look for expenses to cut, some are seeking help from increased sales tax revenue.

“The fact of the matter is, either we have to raise revenue or we have to downsize,” Councilor Wayne L. Ashley said. “I don’t see any reason that we’ll be able to raise more revenue than we have now, unless somehow the property tax is increased.”

Councilor William D. Hosmer was the lone holdout.

“I don’t believe it is going to help the budget this year,” he said. “In the future, if they are willing to make the cuts to bring the budget under control and they would provide us a property tax break, then I would support raising the tax.”

Mr. Hosmer said the sales tax is just another burden on an overtaxed population.

“It could be a good idea if they agreed to lower the property tax,” he said. “In effect, they just want to add another tax. The price of goods will immediately rise. Gas prices will increase and it will hurt families and businesses in the area.”

St. Lawrence County’s lower sales tax could be used to its advantage, Mr. Hosmer said.

“The county has an advantage to attract business and people because we have a lower tax rate,” he said. “We need to market that. A low sales tax is a benefit, not a detriment.”

In the meantime, council members will continue to try to untangle next year’s budget at their next meeting Monday. The meeting will be followed by a budget work session.

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