Revisits county refusal to share sales tax
By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong
The Philipstown Town Board Wednesday (Jan. 15) voted to broaden its public information outreach by disseminating legal notices and similar items through two newspapers. It named the Putnam County News & Recorder as the paid-circulation publication it uses while opting to send submissions to Philipstown.info’s The Paper as well.
The vote by Supervisor Richard Shea and Councilors Mike Leonard, Dave Merandy, Nancy Montgomery, and John Van Tassel came six days after a reorganization session at which the board withdrew a draft resolution making the PCNR the “official town newspaper.” That draft did not mention provision of notices to Philipstown.info’s The Paper, or any other publication.
Under New York State law, a municipality must publish various legal notices – certain official announcements – in a newspaper with a paid circulation (one whose readers pay for a subscription). As the resolution passed Wednesday noted, in Philipstown the weekly PCNR is such a newspaper. By contrast, The Paper is distributed free of charge.
However, the resolution also explained that “the Town Board seeks to disseminate legal notices and important official information as widely as possible within the town of Philipstown.”
Accordingly, the resolution stated, the board decided “that for 2014 it will use the PCNR as the paid-circulation paper of record to which it submits all legal notices and other such information” but likewise resolved “that simultaneously upon sending all legal notices and similar items of information to the PCNR, it will also provide them to Philipstown.info/The Paper.”
The resolution passed with no discussion by Town Board members, some of whom recently criticized the PCNR’s treatment of issues, elected officials, and volunteers who serve on local government committees.
Sales tax revenue sharing
Turning to other topics, the board got an update from Shea on the latest go-round between officials of local communities and Putnam County leaders over the latter’s refusal to return a portion of the sales tax to the municipalities in which it is collected, although most New York state counties do share sales tax income. “We’re not going to see any revenue-sharing, ever – at least not in the near future,” Shea announced, reporting on a meeting earlier that day. Instead, he said, the county proposes more county-municipality cooperative projects.
Shea and other Town Board members came up with one to pursue immediately: repair of Manitou Station Road, a lane, leading to the Hudson River, about which the county has expressed concerns. Coincidentally, the board received a letter on Wednesday proposing the town seek a grant for work on that road, with some level of county involvement. The board postponed a response, pending clarification of the nature of town and county roles in the grant application process.
Montgomery said she “would like to get security in our courtroom on their [county] dime.” At the request of Judge Stephen Tomann of the Philipstown Justice Court, who cited the unruly behavior of attendees at traffic-court sessions, the town government arranged to have a sheriff’s deputy in the courtroom, effective as of late 2013. But as Van Tassel told his colleagues last week, the town apparently is expected to pay for the deputy’s time.
As another possibility for county involvement, Shea mentioned the construction of parking areas just north of Cold Spring along Route 9D, near trails leading up into the mountains, in support of the proposed Hudson River Fjord Trail to link Cold Spring and Beacon.
Overall, if the county wants to partner with Philipstown, “there are plenty of things I can think of they can help us with, in-house,” Shea said. He also referred to County Executive MaryEllen Odell’s expressed desires for a greater county government presence in Philipstown. “I give her credit in wanting to bring county services over here,” he said.
At the same time, he pointed to the approximately $2 million in surplus or “overage” sales-tax revenue the county stashes away. “To me a reasonable expectation is that some of that would come back” to the area in which it is raised. However, Shea continued, “the county does not see that as an overage; they see that as money that can be moved to other lines in the budget.”
Leonard, the newest board member, concurred that “overages should be open to a percentage for us” as shared income. Van Tassel noted that county officials “are banking on that [sales tax] every year to be a cushion in their budget” rather than finding other ways to meet county expenses.