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GIAMBRA CANCELS CUT IN PROPERTY-TRANSFER TAX

The disaster in New York City and the state's budget crunch are hitting home for Erie County residents in the form of a canceled tax cut.

County Executive Joel A. Giambra said Friday that he will not cut the county's property-transfer tax for home sellers in 2002, a move the County Legislature approved in March.

"It would be irresponsible," said Giambra. "The ability to reduce the transfer tax is severely impacted by the occurrences of Sept. 11. The state budget is in total flux right now and there's a tremendous amount of uncertainty."

The tax cut would have been the second phase of a planned three-year elimination of the transfer tax, which costs county residents $5 per $1,000 of the sale price when they sell a home in Erie County.

This year, county officials enacted the first step in the phaseout, eliminating the so-called "double tax" on builders and developers when they split and sell land. Residents were next in line for their share of the cut: 50 percent eliminated each year in 2002 and 2003, which would complete the phaseout of the 10-year-old tax, which raises about $7 million annually for Erie County.

Legislature Majority Leader Crystal D. Peoples said Giambra should not be so quick to jump to the conclusion that the tax cut must be canceled.

"Obviously, we have to put our guard up after the events in New York City," said Peoples, D-Buffalo. "But I think we have to take a look at the impact of that event on our economy here in Western New York, and take a look at whether we're still interested in doing (the cut)."

Giambra said he considers the cancellation of the tax cut a "deferment" of the cut, not a scrapping of the plan.

"Right now we can't afford to proceed with the phaseout," he said.

But Peoples, head of the Legislature's Budget and Finance Committee, said the Legislature will take a close look at the transfer tax during the county's upcoming budget process, and determine the feasibility of the tax cut at that time.

e-mail: cvogel@buffnews.com

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