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YOUR TURN / A sample of responses received for last week's question

Q: Given the projected Erie County deficit of $140 million for 2006, which would you prefer, raising the property tax or sales tax?

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I would much rather see a sales tax increase as opposed to a property tax increase. Many senior citizens and retirees on fixed incomes cannot take any increase in property taxes. We want to attract more people to the area. We already have very affordable housing, but one thing that people look at is the property tax rate. We have lost countless homeowners due to our already high taxes. A property tax increase would spell an end to the real estate market in the county for many people.

Ted Malinowski, North Tonawanda

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Sales taxes are regressive and tax the poor, who can't use the tax-free Internet or travel to areas with lower sales taxes. As for that old bromide that property tax increases raise rents, the property tax is deductible. When taxes were lowered in Erie County, landlords did not lower rents. Tax those who can most afford it -- property owners.

William F. Mastroleo, Buffalo

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I don't believe the county needs additional revenue to perform its essential functions, but if it does, user fees should be raised to cover costs of services rendered. If additional revenue is needed for social services or supporting the poor, the sales tax is the fairest way. The property tax is too subjective and expensive to administer. I would favor eliminating property tax entirely and supporting the county with sales tax alone, regardless of the outcome of the current fiscal crisis.

Luke R. Dyer, Buffalo

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Let's see: raise the sales tax to stifle economic activity, or raise the real estate tax to drive people out of the county? Um, given the choices, I guess I vote against economic activity.

Bob Anderson, Buffalo

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Neither! Until the Legislature cuts all wasteful spending and implements cost-saving ideas such as those recently summarized in the Buffalo Niagara Partnership report, it would be cowardly and shameful to use the sacred right to raise taxes on what are some of the most highly taxed people in the nation.
Martin F. Brownsey, West Seneca

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I think the sales tax should be increased. This would force out-of-towners and people from other counties to help support Erie County. The few people who are left are overtaxed as it is. It's time to spread it around, considering the out-of-county visitors who come to use the zoo, museums, lakefront and stadiums.

Rick Lange, Farmersville

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If it is imperative to raise taxes, it should be the sales tax, which is the most equitable and fair. It allows outsiders to also feed the kitty, rather than heaping even more burdens on seniors and fixed-income homeowners. Real estate taxes hamper the market and place burdens on businesses. This has a steamroll affect across the local economy, as the taxes are "forwarded" to customers.

Thomas Smith, Lackawanna

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With a projected deficit of $140 million for 2006, the salient fact of failure to meaningfully reform places responsibility squarely on the county government and the main funders of the system, the property owners. Visitors, transient purchasers and the poor should not have to shoulder the burden caused mainly by the government. With reported property values showing brisk interest despite the deficits, property owners should incur the expected and continuing deficits through property tax levies.

David Conners, Eggertsville

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Raising property taxes will only impel more movement out of New York State. Everyone pays sales tax; everyone should share the burden of rescuing Erie County. But fine-tune the sales tax before raising it. Some suggestions: Don't further burden those who cannot afford health insurance by taxing lab work, etc. And raise the tax on luxury items.

Lynn M. Jones, Williamsville

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The problem of raising the sales tax is that it will strike at the poor who already struggle to make ends meet. An increase in property tax will impact the middle class and rich who are the major job sources. Therefore, the logical solution must be to share the burden while growing the base, which requires innovative and creative solutions, including cutting fat perks and wages. Otherwise the tax base will continue to shrink.

Corey & Carol Foegen, Gainesville

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I favor increasing the sales tax. To burden just the homeowners of Erie County would be unfair.

James A. Ziolkowski, Buffalo

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