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Town supervisors push to get share of proposed internet sales tax

Rachel O'Brien
Rich Schaffer

Suffolk County’s 10 towns are seeking a portion of a proposed internet sales tax, pointing to similar revenue-sharing agreements in Nassau and other counties.

Rich Schaffer, the supervisor for the Town of Babylon and chairman of the Suffolk County Supervisors Association, is leading the effort to get a share of the anticipated sales tax on online purchases that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo estimates could bring the state as much as $390 million annually.

While the three towns and two cities in Nassau County have long had a sales-tax sharing agreement with the county, Schaffer and his nine colleagues are asking only that a portion of the future revenue from the internet sales go to the towns.

He noted that 46 of the 57 counties outside New York City have revenue-sharing agreements with their towns and villages.

“We want to mimic other counties that have agreements with their municipalities,” he said. But only for the internet sales tax, “which is new money,” he said.

Chad Lupinacci, the Huntington Town supervisor, went to Albany with Schaffer recently to speak with state lawmakers about their request.

“If this new internet sales tax would go into effect, we just want to make sure it would not only go directly to the county, the county would be able to share it with the 10 towns,” he said.

But the agreement would ultimately be decided locally, according to Morris Peters, spokesman for the state Division of the Budget.

The office of State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli occasionally gets involved in these agreements, according to spokeswoman Tania Lopez.

Schaffer and the other supervisors haven't met with County Executive Steve Bellone, but it will have to happen, Lupinacci said.

Asked about the supervisors’ request, Bellone spokesman Jason Elan said, “The county supports the Senate and Assembly one-house proposals.” Those proposals would establish the internet sales tax to be split between the state and its counties.

While Suffolk doesn’t have an agreement with its municipalities like Nassau does, the five eastern towns of East Hampton, Southampton, Shelter Island, Southold and Riverhead get a portion of the county sales tax for their police forces, as do a handful of villages with police forces.

Cuomo has proposed that a portion of the internet sales tax revenue go to the state’s Aid and Incentives to Municipalities program — or AIM — to make it whole after he announced cuts in his proposed budget in January.

Schaffer says the supervisors association wants the cuts restored without taking from the internet sales tax.