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November 8, 2012

Tax hike could cover Manor costs

COOPERSTOWN — Otsego County lawmakers have begun preliminary discussions on whether they should increase the sales tax by a quarter of a percentage point to help plug the budget hole created by the Otsego County nursing home.

The idea is being promoted by Rep. Keith McCarty, R-Springfield, who has opposed a plan to sell the 174-bed nursing home to a private owner.

On Wednesday, Rep. John Kosmer, D-Fly Creek, said he would also support a sales tax increase “if it’s feasible.”

The sales tax idea arose on the heels of an effort by advocates of the nursing home to convince the board to scrap the idea of selling the facility.

Otsego Manor volunteer Maureen Culbert of Springfield presented a petition signed by 1,534 people opposed to the sale of the nursing home. She also urged the board to conduct an analysis on how such a sale would impact patient care, staff and the local economy.

“It is more than a building,” she told the representatives. “It is about the care of our frailest residents, who were also taxpayers and count on you to do what is right.”

Out of the 8 percent sales tax imposed on the purchase of taxable items, half of the revenue goes to the state treasury. Of the other half, the county gets to keep 76 percent, while 12 percent goes to the city of Oneonta, and the remaining 12 percent is distributed to the county’s other municipalities, county Treasurer Dan Crowell said.

If an additional quarter-percentage point were tacked on, bringing the rate to 8.25 percent, the state would not get any of the added amount. The county and the towns would keep all of the new revenue, Crowell said.

Several counties have already increased their sales tax after winning approval from the state Legislature in Albany. More than all surrounding counties, Otsego County derives a higher share of its overall revenue from sales tax, as a result of tourism driven by the National Baseball Hall of Fame and other attractions largely clustered in the Cooperstown area.

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