County refusal to share sales tax discussed
By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong
As the highlight of an otherwise mostly perfunctory meeting, county and state representatives Thursday (Dec. 12) joined Philipstown’s Town Board in warm praise for retiring Councilwoman Betty Budney, the board’s first female member.
Budney, who decided not to seek another four-year term, leaves the Town Board at the end of the month. In the November election, voters chose Michael Leonard, a member of three town government sub-boards, as the new face on the Town Board, which consists of the town supervisor and four councilmen/women or councilors.
At Thursday’s session, Assemblywoman Sandy Galef, a Democrat like Budney, and Putnam County Legislator Barbara Scuccimarra, a Republican, lauded Budney and gave her official declarations of gratitude.
The Town Board presented Budney with a map of the town, mounted to a plaque with the text of a resolution saluting her. She also received a bouquet of flowers and wall triptych of historic postcards from members of the public who had teamed up with her in Lions Club and other volunteer projects.
“Words fall short when trying to describe a person like Betty,” Supervisor Richard Shea said. “When you look at the depth and breadth of Betty’s career and her service to this town, you can’t sum that up in words.” Nonetheless, he tried. Addressing Budney on behalf of the entire Philipstown population, he took a few moments for “saying ‘thank-you’ for all you’ve done for every person in this town.” The plaque notes that Budney joined the board Jan. 1, 1989, and in the ensuing years demonstrated “exemplary dedication” and labors exerted “tirelessly for the betterment of the town’s economic, cultural and aesthetic development.”
Galef described Budney’s involvement in town government as “just incredible” and pointed out how Town Board members are on the frontlines of government, close to local citizens and their criticism, and devote endless hours to studying and resolving matters of importance, for the public good. “I’m just so impressed with you.” She presented Budney with a New York State Assembly citation in tribute.
Scuccimarra said that in her four years on the Town Board, she found that Budney “never shied away from a challenge or hard work.” She gave Budney a formal County Legislature statement expressing Putnam’s appreciation.
Former Town Board Member Dave Brower, who also served alongside Budney, brought her a bouquet – apparently the second of the day, as Budney said the Garrison Volunteer Ambulance Corps earlier had given her flowers. Brower mentioned Budney’s volunteerism, including her commitment to providing gift baskets to the town’s less-well-off residents.
Budney thanked all those who thanked her. “It’s been a privilege and an honor to be a councilwoman. And it’s hard for me to step down. I love you all,” she told her Town Board colleagues. “I’m really going to miss this, really miss it.” However, she said, family needs have increased, as illness and death struck this year. “I just couldn’t do it anymore,” she said of her Town Board job. “It’s hard for me to say good-bye, but I’ll see you out there because I never give up helping someone.”
Sales tax sharing
The touchy subject of the county’s refusal to share sales-tax revenue with the town, where a portion is collected – especially tax dollars generated by tourism – came up when Scuccimarra delivered her monthly report on county activities. Scuccimarra referred to a recent county meeting with municipal officials, including Philipstown Councilor Dave Merandy.
Scuccimarra announced that County Executive MaryEllen Odell and other county officials are willing to come to Philipstown to present the rationale for not sharing sales tax income. (Most New York counties do return some to towns and villages.) “I think it warrants a workshop so we can go over the numbers and put everything on the table and see what we can do,” Scuccimarra said.
She observed that State Sen. Terry Gipson is promoting mandate-relief to spare lower levels of government from having to pay for and implement initiatives devised by the state. “If the county gets mandate-relief, it would free up so much extra money,” Scuccimarra said.
Councilor Nancy Montgomery asked about delivering some county services in Philipstown.
“Yes, definitely,” Scuccimarra replied. “That’s one way they can help us out – by giving more services if they can’t share the funds” from sales tax.
Merandy said that Carmel appeared unready to share anything in a very substantive or long-term way. “It sounds like if they have an extra truck, they’re willing to loan us that, or something along those lines,” without a meaningful commitment, he said.
Scuccimarra expressed hope that “through negotiations, we can pin it down more in specifics – things we need in this town.”