Tourism, policing, services at issue
Philipstown officials and residents last week loudly and clearly opposed reductions in funding by the Putnam County Legislature for tourism, social services and policing.
They commented on Oct. 26 during a public hearing held via audioconference because of pandemic restrictions. The Legislature approved the budget three days later without making any changes in response to the criticism.
Kathleen Foley, who on Tuesday (Nov. 3) was elected to the Cold Spring Village Board, called the budget process a “sham,” including the virtual hearing in which technical difficulties apparently hindered some people trying to chime in.
“This is absurd to me. This is not a public hearing,” she said. “The language the Legislature used around this whole budget process is about how ‘bare-bones’ and ‘slim’ this is. This budget is slim for departments that the Legislature and county executive want to punish; it is unrestrained for cronies that you want to reward.”
In her proposed budget, County Executive MaryEllen Odell included contractual salary increases for union members, as well as a 2.4 percent salary increase for management. But she cut Sheriff Robert Langley’s request for $716,000 for patrol overtime to $520,000.
Cold Spring Mayor Dave Merandy said the Sheriff’s Department has been critical to maintaining order in the village as tourism continues to soar. Cold Spring has put additional officers on duty on weekends, which costs the village about $1,000 per weekend, said the mayor.
“We need help — whatever you can send our way is appreciated,” said Merandy. “I understand that with COVID, you’re going to have a lot of restraints put on the budget and I expected that, but looking at the rest of your budget it doesn’t look like it affected much.”
Spending for tourism promotion was also tightened. In 2019, Putnam received $68,000 in state funds and the county contributed $136,000. In 2020, the state contributed $60,000 and the county provided $60,000. The county will spend $50,000 in 2021, but no state funds are expected.
Philipstown Town Board member Judy Farrell added: “Tourism is not just marketing; it’s supporting the infrastructure of the village.”
“Entertaining cuts to real essential services like village aid, the sheriff, the Department of Social Services, legal aid and cemeteries while entertaining raises for elected officials — that’s not right,” said Philipstown Supervisor Richard Shea.