May 24, 2006
There is a way county officials could offset the loss of gasoline sales tax revenue. In addition to a $158 million fund balance the county currently maintains a tax stabilization reserve fund. There's $118 million in it.
By law, in order to access the money, lawmakers have to raise taxes by two and a half percent. For the average taxpayer, that amounts to $3.50 per year added to the tax bill.
Capping the sales tax collection at $2 per gallon would result in a savings of a dime per gallon. For a motorist with a 10-gallon gas tank, that's a dollar per fill-up. Filling up once a week, in just one month a motorist would save $4, an amount greater than the tax increase.
Ed Dumas, a spokesman for County Executive Steve Levy, said the idea of accessing the tax stabilization fund is a frequently used argument offered by those in favor of additional spending. Acquiescing to the temptation to siphon money from the rainy day fund could deplete it quickly.
Recently Suffolk County received its highest bond rating ever from Standard & Poor's Rating Services. The only criticism S&P offered in announcing the bond upgrade related to how Suffolk manages its fund balance and reserve.