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Chautauqua County Legislature approves sales tax hike, sends it to state

MAYVILLE – A resolution to increase the county’s share of the sales tax to 4 percent of the purchase price on most items was approved Wednesday by a majority of the Chautauqua County Legislature. The county’s present sales tax is 3.5 percent.

When added to the state’s 4 percent sales tax, the combined state and county sales tax in Chautauqua County is 7.5 percent. Wednesday’s resolution, which must be approved by the State Legislature before it can take effect, would increase the county and state total tax to 8 percent.

Sales taxes are not charged on food, clothing purchases up to $110 or on home energy fuel.

Chautauqua County is one of only two counties left in the state with a total sales tax that is not at the 8 percent or higher. County Executive Vincent Horrigan proposed the increase as a way to decrease property taxes in the future.

He said the change in rates was recommended by the Deficit Reduction Committee that started meeting several months ago.

“The reality is that as our sales taxes [receipts] have gone down, our property taxes have gone up,” said Legislator George Borrello. He said that historically, sales taxes were reduced.

Legislator P.J. Wendall said, “This is the lesser of two evils. It will spread the burden of the taxes.”

Besides support from elected officials, members of the Chautauqua County Board of Realtors and Chautauqua County Farm Bureau President Richard Kimball spoke in favor of the action.

Legislator Terry Niebel was opposed to the increase. He said that businesses in Pennsylvania will benefit from the increase because some shoppers will cross the state line to avoid paying the higher sales tax here.

He said he also supported cutting expenses by reducing the full-time workweek from 40 to 35 hours for county employees, thereby reducing their income, and by reducing other costs.

The motion passed with 14 in favor and four against it.

In other business:

• A new van to transport veterans to appointments was approved for purchase.

• An enhanced police service contracts between the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Department and the Village of Bemus Point was approved in the amount of $6,600 for the summer season.