AUBURN — Cayuga County legislators discussed five potential ways to increase revenue at Tuesday night's Government Operations Committee meeting. Several of the ideas, which County Clerk Sue Dwyer researched, have been presented at other committee meetings over the past few months.
These options — a local mortgage tax, a vehicle tax, a county deed fee, a mortgage tax expense and a county transfer tax — individually could have brought in as much as $485,000 and as little as $10,850 in 2015.
Concerned about an increasing draw on the county's savings, or fund balance, and a decreasing sales tax revenue, legislators agreed to have County Administrator Suzanne Sinclair investigate these options.
The local mortgage tax, which is currently implemented in 24 counties, would collect .25 percent of a person's total mortgage. This would only affect those getting a new mortgage or those refinancing their mortgage. For those refinancing, however, it would only be collected on the new money of the mortgage, not the total mortgage. Dwyer estimated in 2015, the county would have collected $485,000.
The vehicle tax, which is currently implemented in 38 counties, would charge owners $5 a year on each passenger registration and $10 a year for each commercial registration. Dwyer estimated this tax could bring in between $407,000 and $426,000.
Legislator Tucker Whitman said if something like a vehicle tax is implemented, he'd like to see the money earmarked for the county highway department, that way residents can see some visual representation of their money at work, such as improved roads.
The county deed fee would be a $5 flat fee for every deed recorded. Dwyer estimated this would have brought about $10,850 to the county.
The mortgage tax expense, money collected by the county clerk's office, could be increased. Dwyer said currently the county keeps about $119,000. Dwyer said the state uses a specific formula to calculate the increase, and she did not expect the increase to be very high.
The final option discussed was a county transfer tax. About nine counties utilize this revenue option, which would affect every deed that is recorded. Currently, the state collects $4 for every $1,000 of a deed. The county transfer tax would add on another $2 to that, which the county would get to keep rather than sending it to the state. Dwyer said this would have brought in about $345,268 last year.
Dwyer would rather not utilize any of the options.
"I'm the messenger here, not the person saying we have to do this," she said.
Dwyer and Sinclair said some of the options will need state approval, and they said that may be tricky considering the state is asking counties to work within an even lower tax cap.
Legislator Mark Farrell said that is exactly the reason why legislators feel the need to look into other revenue sources.
Chairman Keith Batman said while it's good to research the options, they will likely not be able to approach the state on some of these options until mid-November, after election season.
In other news:
• Legislators expressed disappointment in the lack of funds designated for Cayuga County in the state budget. However, state Sen. Mike Nozzolio announced Tuesday that he was able to secure over $400,000 for Cayuga and Seneca counties to help offset property taxes not paid by some individuals of the Cayuga Nation.
Staff writer Gwendolyn Craig can be reached at (315) 282-2237 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @gwendolynnn1.