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Oswego approves gas, food/beverage tax increases

The Village of Oswego sign on Rt 31 near Century Dr.
The Village of Oswego sign on Rt 31 near Century Dr.

Residents and visitors dining or filling up their gas tanks in Oswego will see two new taxes come into play soon as Oswego Village Board members struggle to find ways to beef up their budgets.

On Tuesday, board members unanimously approved a 4-cent-per-gallon tax on fuel sales made within the village in hopes of generating an estimated $600,000 annually to be used for roadway improvements and maintenance. 

The board also unanimously passed a food and beverage tax ordinance which imposes a 1 percent tax on sales of food and beverages prepared for immediate consumption. This tax is estimated to generate $500,000 to be used to support general operating costs. The new taxes will go into effect Oct. 1.

Several residents showed up at Tuesday’s meeting to speak out against the passage of the new taxes and impress upon the board the effect such taxes might have on residents. In addition to the two additional tax increases, the board also approved increasing water rates over the next several years.

“We keep hearing that it’s only a few dollars. What’s the big deal?” Oswego resident Jerry Bannister said from the board room’s lectern. “The question is, when will it end? It won’t. They will keep taking our money.”

Bannister said the board has “champagne taste but beer wages.”

“Do you really want this to become a town that’s a tax-and-spend culture?” he asked.

An Oswego woman also spoke in opposition to the new taxes.

“I resent being thought of or treated as an endless ATM or checkbook for the whims of the village,” she said. “I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels this way.”

Finance Director Mark Horton explained to the audience that the decision to tax wasn’t made lightly. The discussion has been in the works for about a year, and several brainstorming workshops have been held to find funding solutions that will have the least impact on residents.

Village Administrator Daniel DiSanto pointed to a flattening of state income taxes, sales taxes and property taxes as devastating factors for the village. 

He noted that $700,000 from the village’s capital improvement fund was already transferred to help balance the budget, but said doing so again would not be sustainable. The village would need to come up with additional revenue sources.

It could cut staff. It could cut road programs. It could put major projects on hold. Those options, however, go against the mission of Oswego to become a community of growth, DiSanto explained. 

Both the fuel and food and beverage tax are optional taxes that residents are not forced into paying. They can eat elsewhere, fill their tanks elsewhere, and avoid the marginal markup. However, the taxes are in line with what other home-rule tax communities are currently imposing, Horton said. 

“Why punish us with more taxation and force us out of our community?” one resident asked. “We can easily go to the next community for dinner and to fill up our car. We don’t want to, but you’re forcing us to. I think you should think long and hard before you make this decision.”

Village Board member Joe West was absent from Tuesday’s board meeting.

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