I am writing to take issue with the editorial in The Buffalo News regarding Erie County's 8 percent sales tax. You accused me of being "hypocritical" for suggesting that the 8th percent of the sales tax be shared with other municipalities.
You are not only biased, but also woefully unacquainted with the facts regarding the sales tax. When Dennis Gorski ran for county executive in 1987, he pledged that he would cut the sales tax back to 7.5 percent his first year in office, and to 7 percent by the end of his four-year term. He has just presented the third budget of his four-year term, and he has so far ignored his promise.
I would also point out to you that the city is not asking for a handout. In 1984, due to the county's extraordinary fiscal crisis, the city agreed that the extra 1 percent should go to the county to help solve its deficit.
But that was six years ago. What was supposed to be a temporary tax has become entrenched.
All I am proposing is that all cities, towns, villages and school districts in Erie County get their fair share of this extra 1 percent sales tax, perhaps on the same basis that they share the 3 percent sales tax.
The premise of your argument that "any sales tax revenue siphoned from the county will undoubtedly have to be made up by the county property tax" is not necessarily correct. The month before I became mayor, the sales tax distribution agreement was amended, resulting in a $4 million annual loss to Buffalo. This loss was not made up by an increase in city property taxes. Through belt-tightening, including the elimination of 473 city jobs by the end of that first year, we closed the gap.
My proposal for sharing the 8th percent of the sales tax is not intended to put the county budget into fiscal chaos. What I am asking is that the state law be changed so that the entire proceeds for the 8th percent of the sales tax are not required to be used solely for county purposes.
This would allow local officials to negotiate with the county on how a sharing of these proceeds could be phased in over the next few years. We are all looking out for the best interests of our constituents. We have a responsibility to seek our fair share of this growth revenue. This is hardly hypocrisy.
JAMES D. GRIFFIN
Mayor of Buffalo