Ryan wants return of 50-50 split

By Lorne Fultonberg

March 25, 2013 Updated Mar 26, 2013 at 9:14 AM EST

Binghamton, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Mayor Matthew Ryan called on County Executive Debbie Preston once again Monday to share sales tax revenues equally. And now, he's bringing public safety officers into the mix.

"As you know we've had to cut fire and police in all our departments," Ryan said. "And as pension costs continue to rise and as government costs continue to rise, if we don't share in the pain and share together we might have to make other further tough choices."

Standing outside City Hall, flanked by city police and fire vehicles and officials, Ryan asked for a return to 2009 -- the last time the city and county split sales tax revenues 50-50.

In 2009, in light of what Broome officials said were financial difficulties, the county passed legislation to enact a 58-42 split. Ryan says the county's rainy days are over, citing two consecutive years without tax increases.

"Over the last two years if we'd had had a 50-50 sales tax distribution we would have had $2.8 million for the city alone," Ryan said.

That money could have gone toward keeping the city of Binghamton's own taxes from increasing, Ryan said, or even cut taxes. Instead, the city has had to cut positions and resources, including in the fire and police departments.

"It's been a continual challenge to provide the tools, equipment and resources that we need," said Binghamton Fire Chief Dan Thomas. "But even more importantly for the manpower. Over the past number of years our numbers have certainly diminished."

Police Chief Joe Zikuski told a similar story saying more officers means a safer community, particularly important for a city such as Binghamton, which is the largest in Broome County.

"The municipalities hit hardest by the change in formula are the urban cores, and the urban cores are key to the success of the county." said Binghamton City Council President Teri Rennia. "So if we don't have the support of the county to maintain our public safety it's going to have an impact on the remainder of the county."

Deputy County Executive John Bernardo said in a statement that Preston has a plan to restore the 50-50 sales tax formula in the coming years.

"The city’s problems are related to spending," he said. "And until the mayor and council president get the city’s spending under control, they will never deliver a responsible budget for the taxpayers. “

Binghamton City Council unanimously -- and symbolically -- passed a resolution to return to the 50-50 split. The Broome County Legislature would have to pass its own resolution for anything to change.