By JOE MAHONEY
The Daily Star
---- — COOPERSTOWN — A plan to create a new stream of funding for deficit-plagued Otsego Manor by imposing a boost in the local sales tax rate ran into a roadblock Tuesday in the person of state Sen. James Seward, R-Milford.
While Seward has no opposition to the county-owned nursing home, he and other Senate Republicans would not push for any legislation that would increase the sales tax, senator spokesman Jeff Bishop said.
An 11th hour “framework” designed to avoid the privatization of the 174-bed county nursing home, promoted by Rep. John Kosmer, D-Fly Creek, is premised in part on raising the total sales tax rate in the county from 8 percent to 8.25 percent — if residents agree in on online survey to support such an increase.
A petition urging county officials to keep the Manor as a county property was signed by some 1,800 residents, but did not attempt to discern if there was public support for a sales tax boost.
Kosmer’s plan is expected to be discussed at this morning’s monthly meeting of the county Board of Representatives in Cooperstown. Kosmer was among the county representatives who voted to authorize the sale of the Manor last year. Republican representatives have privately said Kosmer’s vote represented a flip-flop from his statements during the 2011 campaign season that he wanted to keep the Manor as a public facility.
Told that Seward would not get behind the sales tax idea, Kosmer said, “That’s his call.”
Kosmer said he was not asking board members to back a sales tax hike, but simply urging them to find out through a poll what county residents would deal with the Manor’s financial predicament, with an adjustment in the sales tax as an option.
“What we’re asking is: Will they go along with their constituents whom they represent?” he said, adding: “Why don’t we find out what they want and represent them?”
He said he has received about 20 to 30 emails from county residents weighing in on the plan, and those in favor outnumber opponents by about 10 to one.
As for whether his colleagues on the board would back it, he said, “I’ve gotten the sense that some reps want to give the plan a chance, and that’s why I’m calling this a framework and not a proposal.”
The union representing Manor workers, the Civil Service Employees Association, has voiced opposition to the privatization push. But the union has yet to embrace the Kosmer plan, which calls for the union to make significant contractual concessions, in order to make the home more affordable for the county to manage.