Shelby seeks more local sales tax from county

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 12 April 2023 at 9:08 am

Share to towns and villages has been frozen for more than 2 decades

Photo by Tom Rivers: Shelby town officials met on Tuesday evening at the Town Hall. Pictured from left include Town Clerk Darlene Rich, Town Councilman Jeff Schiffer, attorney Jeff Clark, Town Supervisor Scott Wengewicz, and board members Stephen Seitz, John Pratt and Ed Zelazny.

SHELBY – The Town Board unanimously voted on Tuesday evening to seek more of the local sales tax from the county.

The tax revenue has risen significantly in recent years with online sales being taxed and the price of goods rising through inflation.

However, the county hasn’t increased the amount of sales tax shared with towns and villages since 2001. That year it was boosted slightly after being frozen in 1996.

The county took in $22.5 million in local sales tax in 2022, with the Town of Shelby receiving $105,811 or 0.47 percent of the total.

The Town of Clarendon has been leading the push from towns and villages for more of the local sales tax. It has rallied the towns and villages to seek 14 percent of the total. That’s what the 10 towns and four villages received in 1996.

The county has capped the amount to the towns and villages at $1,366,671 since 2001.

To get to 14 percent of $22.5 million, the county would have to increase the amount to towns and villages to $3,150,000 – a $1,783,329 increase. In 1996, the local sales tax revenue was $9,499,138. It has more than doubled since then.

Shelby Town Supervisor Scott Wengewicz said the town could use more of the sales tax to try to stave off property tax increases while maintaining services for residents.

“Every town is struggling to not raise taxes,” Wengewicz said. “What service do you cut? It’s a juggling act that’s hard to do.”

Orleans County Legislature Chairwoman Lynne Johnson addressed the issue during the March 28 meeting of the Orleans County Association of Municipalities. She said the county faces big  potential increases due to the state.

“Until the governor’s budget goes through we’re in limbo,” Johnson said.

The county could see a $1 million hit in Medicaid expenses if the state opts to keep all of the federal funding used to help pay for that program, which would be about a 7.5 percent tax hit to the county, she said.

Gov. Kathy Hochul also is proposing to increase the hourly rate for assigned council from $75 to $119 an hour.  This would cost the county approximately $200,000 per year.

In other action at the Shelby Town Board meeting:

The board voted to increase the hourly pay for Miranda Bennett, a bookkeeper and secretary to the town supervisor, by $3 to $24.25 an hour. Wengewicz said the increase reflects a competitive environment and was needed to keep Bennett from taking another job. He said she has also taking on increased responsibilities.

Councilman John Pratt opposed the increase and encouraged the town to contract with a private firm for accounting. He said it would be cheaper and Shelby wouldn’t have to pay health insurance and other benefits.

 John Parada, a resident of Furness Parkway, asked the Town Board not to extend street lights near his home. There are two street lights there and the town is switching to LED lights for its street lights and has been inquiring if Furness Parkway residents want more street lights. Parada said two are enough for the street.

Town resident Lawrence Waters asked the Town Board to publicize the outdoor burn ban which is in effect in the state  through May 14. Waters said some residents are burning brush and may not be aware that is prohibited right now.

Wengewicz said the town will post that ban on its website and may send a text to residents who signed up for the town’s mass notification system.

Waters also asked the status of the proposal from Borrego Energy for two wind turbines at 633 feet tall on land owned by the Smith family on Route 63.

A public hearing on the environmental impacts of the project has been recessed since September. Wengewicz said he expects that hearing will be reconvened or started over.

He said the project hasn’t gone away.

He started as town supervisor on Dec. 13. The town also has a new attorney in Jeff Clark. With the new personnel getting their bearings with the proposal, the town will have to take up the review of the project soon, Wengewicz said.

He is aware that many residents are opposed to the project. Waters said he was “100 percent” against it.

The board can’t simply deny it. It has to have sound reasons and go through an environmental impact review.

“We need to follow the process fully and completely,” said Clark, the town attorney.

Town officials are preparing detailed questions for Borrego as part of the review process, he said.

“We want to be careful and not get in a lawsuit,” Clark said. “We are putting together arguments that are sustainable.”