Essex County Board of Supervisors
The public will have its chance to weigh in on a proposed local law once it is drafted and accepted that would add a fee to Essex County vehicle registrations.
The proposal, which would be Local Law No. 3 of 2013, would call for a fee of $5 per year to register private vehicles and $10 per year to register commercial vehicles in Essex County.
Members of the Essex County Ways and Means Committee debated whether the law should be drafted during its June 24 meeting, which was eventually moved forward by a 12-4 vote.
Voting against the drafting of the law were Gerald Morrow (Chesterfield), Sharon Boisen (Essex), Michael Marnell (Schroon) and Dan Connell (Keene). Supervisors Randy Douglas (Jay/board chairman) and Ed Hatch (Willsboro) were excused.
“I know where this is coming from, to help maintain the roads,” Morrow said. “There are other vehicles that use these roads and the only people that will be affected by it are Essex County residents. It’s a fee but it is still a tax. We should get it some other way.”
“Both times, the negativity from my community was large, and I am going to vote against it again because of that,” Connell said. “When we get ready to balance the budget, we always go to highway and take out of their funds. We have a lot of small businesses that may have several vehicles. None of us want to put any of these businesses out of business.”
“Whenever you have an increase in registration fees or operating costs for a business, someone is going to absorb that,” Marnell said. “Everyone is going to raise their prices a little bit and everyone is going to be affected by it.”
Elizabethtown Supervisor Margaret Bartley asked if this was something that other counties in the state were charging.
“If we did raise $200,000 or $300,000 out of this and then reduce the levy, we are not coming out ahead on this,” Bartley said. “If 98 percent of the counties are charging this and we are not, then maybe we are just being foolish.”
“I do not know the full numbers but all of our neighboring counties are doing this,” County Manager Dan Palmer said.
“Just because they charge a fee doesn’t mean we have to,” Morrow replied. “We represent Essex County.”
Other supervisors said they felt the fee would be a way to get some funding through other means than property tax.
“The registration fee to me makes sense because it is money coming in that is off the property tax that goes specifically to highway use,” Moriah Supervisor and Finance Chair Tom Scozzafava said. “I think that this is a step in the right direction. If we ever want to reduce the tax levy, these are the steps that we are going to have to take to get this done. In my mind, it makes a heck of a lot more sense to support your infrastructure this way, just as you do with water and sewer.”
“I would probably never support a 26 percent increase in sales tax,” Wilmington Supervisor Randy Preston said. “This may not be the greatest alternative but this is an alternative that we have to look at.”
“I think that this is a way to generate more revenue, I do not think that this is something we are doing to replace lost revenue,” Palmer said. “We have about 31,000 registrations per year for both personal and commercial vehicles, which would raise around $150,000 in revenue each year.”
Once the proposed local law is drafted, the board of supervisors would have to set a date for a public hearing on the issue. The proposal to move forward also needs full board approval, with the vote to take place at the July 1 regular meeting.