QUEENSBURY -- Warren County supervisors voted Friday by a substantial margin to reject enabling legislation for a sales tax increase.
Ten county supervisors - primarily from Queensbury and Glens Falls - voted against the measure, while all but one of the supervisors from the upcounty region voted to preserve the sales tax option.
The idea of raising the sales tax is now effectively dead for the next two years, Warren County Board of Supervisors Chairman Fred Monroe said.
He saw a one-half or one percent increase in sales tax as a way to slash property taxes throughout the county by as much as one-third.
The sales tax would have boosted government income from tourists and out-of-county shoppers, he had argued. Only five counties of the state's 62 have sales tax rates as low as Warren counties, he said.
"It just doesn't make sense to not keep our options open," Monroe said. "I learned in the Air Force that you don't make decisions until you have all the information."
Monroe had proposed the potential sales tax boost to address a projected $6.35 million shortfall in the 2010 budget, and to shift the tax burden from local property owners to out-of-county residents.
Supervisors from Glens Falls and Queensbury spoke with passion about not taking any steps toward raising taxes until every effort is taken to reduce expenses.
Monroe warned that without a sales tax increase, 100 to 170 county employees might have to be be eliminated to keep property taxes close to the target of zero to 2 percent increase.
Johnsburg Supervisor Sterling Goodspeed said that personnel and program cuts should begin as soon as July in order to build up the county's shrunken fund balance and prepare for the looming county financial shortfall. Thirty to 50 jobs should be cut by July to ease the financial downslide, he said.
"It's painful, it's horrible, but we have to look at all positions and programs immediately," he said.
Voting against the sales tax enabling legislation were Queensbury supervisors Dan Stec, David Strainer, Fred Champagne, William VanNess, Matthew Sokol and Glens Falls supervisors Harold "Bud" Taylor, Michael O'Connor, and William Kenny, and Warrensburg Supervisor Kevin Geraghty, who is also county budget officer.
Voting in favor of the measure were Thurman Supervisor Red Pitkin, Stony Creek Supervisor Frank Thomas, Lake Luzerne Supervisor Gene Merlino, Lake George Supervisor Lou Tessier, Horicon Supervisor Ralph Bentley, Hague Supervisor Dan Belden, Glens Falls Supervisor Dan Girard, as well as Goodspeed and Monroe, who serves as Chestertown Supervisor.
The weighted vote, which takes into account the population represented, was 296 to 610 against the enabling legislation.
Bolton resident George Weinschenk said the supervisors made the right decision to reject the measure.
"If they pushed the sales tax through, there would be no pressure to make budget cuts," he said.
But Monroe said that 79 percent of the county budget was mandated by the state and federal governments.
Weinschenk suggested closing down non-mandated county programs and facilities like UpYonda educational farm, the county fish hatchery, and shuttering the Countryside Adult Home and Westmount nursing home, as well as eliminating contributions toward the local Cooperative Extension agency.