Balancing the Sales Tax in Broome

By Matt Porter

September 19, 2012 Updated Sep 19, 2012 at 6:31 PM EDT

Binghamton, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Cashing in on the local sales tax is becoming a debate in Broome County.

Up until 2011, the county and its municipalities took an even, 50-50, split.

But, since 2011, there's been an extra hitch.

Once cities and towns reach 1.5 percent more than the allocated tax from the year prior, they hit a cap, where the surplus is allocated to the county.

In the last two years, more than $8 million were allocated to Broome County instead of cities and towns as they would have been under the old 50-50 system.

That's not ideal says the current county administration.

"The problem we see is you're going to get hooked on this money," said Deputy County Executive John Bernardo, "And you're not going to be able to change it back to what it once was. And that's exactly what occurred."

Bernardo said that in the next seven years, the county can create new savings and revenue so it won't need the extra cash.

"And slowly, but surely, we're going to grow ourselves out of this problem," he said.

Supervisors of towns that bring in lots of sales tax say they hope something can change.

"As you know, the feds cut the state, the state cuts to the county, the county cuts to us," said Vestal Town Supervisor John Schaffer. "As long as they all look good, they don't care what's on the bottom."

Preston's proposed 50-50 sales tax sharing plan will now head to the county legislature.

But, thanks to a clause in the original law passed in 2009, this debate would have been discussed anyway.

"Regardless of whether any administration wanted to bring anything forward," said Legislative Chairman Jerry Marinich, we were still going to look at it this year."

Going back to 50-50 isn't easy. The county says the money helps, particularly in a bad economy.

"As more and more people become unemployed or come into need for public assistance, 'Where do they go?,'" asked Marinich, "They go to the county."

As the 2013 budget is reviewed, this debate is sure to go on.