Updated 04/11/2012 08:17 PM
State drops clothing tax, but few counties follow suit
The state ended its four percent tax on clothing and shoe purchases under $110 at the beginning of April. But out of 62 counties, only nine, plus New York City, cut their portion of sales tax, largely due to budget constraints. YNN's John Wagner has more.
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POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. -- "If we'd cut it, we'd have to look at basically decimating our discretionary programming," said Dutchess County Budget Director Valerie Sommerville.
Sales tax draws about a third of the$ 411 million Dutchess County budget. Property tax brings in a quarter and state, federal and other funds fill the gap. Officials say with virtually no fund balance remaining, cutting the 3.75 percent tax on clothes would have consequences.
"An immediate increase in property tax of seven to eight percent," said Robert Rolison, chairman of the Dutchess County legislature. "Unless you are willing to say okay, well, we don't need Deputy Sheriffs patrolling our roads. We're going to provide less services to mental hygiene, eliminate the county park system. We're going to close the rail trails because we just don't have any money to fund it."
Dropping the clothes tax means $8 million over the course of a year, but almost a fifth of that gets funneled to town and city budgets.
"Bridge repairs and renovations, snow plowing, important programs for youth services and seniors," said Sommerville.
In hopes of increasing sales, the county cut the tax from 2006 until March of 2010, but local stores like Elizabeth Boutique say they don't believe it makes much of a difference for their customers.
"I don't see it being a problem for me, but it could be a problem for big box stores and the mall and people going out of the state to shop," said Beth Madsen, owner of Elizabeth Boutique since it opened in August of 2008.
Ulster, Orange and Sullivan will keep the tax as well, saying if they could get mandate relief from the state, they could afford to cut taxes.
"We're really, we're cutting into the bone now and there are certain services that people in this county have come to expect and deserve and are willing to pay for, this helps us do it," said Rolison.
"Eight million dollars is a lot of money," continued Madsen. "Where it's just a few bucks out of residents pockets for clothing."