The way sales tax revenue is distributed continues to cause debate in Broome County. A group of local firefighters is the latest to call on government to restore the 50-50 split between the county and municipalities. Our Melissa Kakareka tells us why.
ENDICOTT, N.Y. -- Firefighters from Binghamton, Johnson City and Endicott gathered with their union leaders outside the Endicott Fire Department Thursday to send a message to Broome County Executive Debbie Preston and the County Legislature. They want the government to restore the 50-50 split of sales tax revenue between the county and the municipalities immediately.
"It helps out every municipality and it could mean life or death in some instances of police and fire," said Johnson City Firefighters Local 921 President Bob Blakeslee.
The firefighters say their municipalities are losing out on much needed revenue because of the unequal sharing formula the county currently uses. Something that affects not only taxpayers, but police and fire departments, as municipalities try to find ways to balance their budgets.
"It seems like in past years, police and fire, because they are the largest part of the municipal budget, they are first place that budget leaders and comptrollers look to to try and balance budgets," said Binghamton Fire Department Local 729 President Dave Holleran.
"We are the ones most affected by these hard fiscal times and restoring the split back to the 2010 levels would go a long way towards helping us out, especially here in Endicott with the Huron reassessment," said Endicott Professional Firefighters Local 1280 President Paul Higgins.
Debbie Preston's 2013 budget does call for a gradual change back to the 50-50 split over time. Her office released a statement saying, "We're delivering a 10 percent increase in sales tax revenue to every municipality in the county, including Binghamton, Endicott and Johnson City. These three municipalities will receive more money in 2013 for fire and police services than they would have received if it wasn't for Debbie Preston. And for beyond 2013, we have a smart and effective business plan in place to get us back to the full 50/50 split within the next several years."
Still the firefighters say a more immediate change would reduce financial burdens on taxpayers and help fire and police departments continue providing services that residents rely on.