Oneida County Executive renews calls for consolidation, sales tax changes
Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente’s proposed 2017 budget was met with thunderous applause from the Oneida County Board of Legislators Wednesday. It calls for no increase in the county’s property tax rate for the fourth year in a row. Picente said while the county's taxpayers may praise him, this trend cannot continue.
“For us in county government there are no more airports to sell, retirements to defer or Nation agreements to settle," Picente said.
In addition to no raise in the property tax rate, sales taxes in the county are flat. So Picente's proposed budget, like in past years, includes money from the fund balance to make up for rising costs elsewhere. Dipping into those reserves recently earned the county a “susceptible to fiscal stress” rating from the state, which Picente largely blames on unfunded mandates from the New York State Legislature.
To tackle the problem of decreasing revenues, Picente is renewing his calls for the roughly 365 taxing jurisdictions in the county to combine some of their public services. He also wants to shift more of the sales tax revenues to the county government. Picente said he will form a committee of county, city and town lawmakers to look at how the sales tax formula can be reworked so more of the revenue can be go to the larger governments that provide more public services - like Utica and the county itself.
“It’s time to look at another formula that is more equitable for the governments that have more to do so that we don’t have to keep raising taxes or we can maintain a low level,” Picente said. “If this formula does not change, the next budget you approve will require an override of the tax cap and Draconian cuts in all non-mandated services.”
Board of Legislators Minority Leader Phillip Sacco praised Picente and his legislative colleagues for working in a cooperative fashion to keep taxes low. Sacco said cooperation will be key to achieving the sales tax changes and in combining public services.
"Consolidation is always a money saving venture," Sacco said. "It’s really difficult to do, but it’s something that if everybody works together - 99 times it comes out cost savings for everybody."
Picente said any changes in the sales tax formula wouldn’t take place until 2018. In the meantime, the county legislators plan to start reviewing the executive's proposed $393,473,166 budget, including holding public hearings, before a vote in November.