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County legislator reviews 2013 plans with Brasher Town Board

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BRASHER FALLS - If St. Lawrence County is going to be able to raise their sales tax by 1 percent, this may be the year to do it, according to one county legislator.

Anthony J. Arquiett, D-Helena, told Brasher Town Board members this week that being able to raise the sales tax was part of the county’s five-year plan they had adopted during their reorganizational meeting earlier this month.

Their goal, Mr. Arquiett said, is to use “the lion’s share” of that proposed sales tax increase from 7 to 8 percent to reduce the tax levy for county residents.

St. Lawrence County is one of five counties in the state that is not at 8 percent, and they’ve been unable to convince lawmakers in Albany that the move is needed to generate revenue.

“We are just asking for fairness and equity,” Mr. Arquiett said.

While he said their plan to use the increase for the tax levy had been met with “some skepticism,” that was their intention if they were successful in getting the increase.

“I don’t think any member of the board would spend it anywhere but where is was direly needed,” Mr. Arquiett said. “That’s why we have a five-year plan.”

The goal of the plan is to reduce property taxes and partially rebuild the fund balance.

Mr. Arquiett also discussed efforts by county officials to meet with the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe over casino gaming compact funds. The county legislature had agreed in early August to hire the Wladis Law Firm, Syracuse, to advise the county and to represent it should it decide to sue.

But, he said, suing the tribe is not on their agenda.

“I want to make it clear, the county nor myself never said we were suing the tribe,” he said, noting they had hired the law firm to recoup funds due to the county.

In June, legislators and county officials met with a representative of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to state their case for the more than $12 million that is owed to St. Lawrence and Franklin counties and the towns of Massena, Brasher, Bombay and Fort Covington.

Under a deal between the state and the St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Council, the money represents the counties’ and towns’ combined share of proceeds from the reservation’s casino.

The money has been held in escrow because of a exclusivity dispute St. Regis Mohawks have with a slot machine operation on Ganienkeh Territory in Altona.

County officials met this summer with tribal representatives, including newly elected chief Paul O. Thompson. Included in the talks were whether the tribe and county could work their own deal.

Since then, Mr. Arquiett said, they have met with tribal officials again.

“We did meet with the tribe regarding the compact before the turn of the year. We have another meeting scheduled for Jan. 17. We consider the talks negotiations between the county and the tribe,” he said.

Mr. Arquiett also discussed a multi-use, county-wide trail system that will stretch from Lewis County to Franklin County. He predicted 2013 “is going to be a big year” for that system.

“We’re achieving a number of different approvals,” he said.

They had appointed Debbie A. Christy as the county trail coordinator, and she is “working on a very defined plan on how towns have the ability to open up roads” to recreational vehicles, Mr. Arquiett said.

“Some of the towns are really chomping at the bit to get roads open,” he said.

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