Blames state for cut of tourism-related funds
Each year since 2011, Putnam County has provided Cold Spring with $7,500 to help pay for trash collection, a tacit recognition of the village’s role in drawing visitors who contribute to Putnam’s sales-tax revenue.
The funds will not be provided in 2020 or 2021, however, a move that Bill Carlin, the county finance commissioner, attributed to a change in state sales-tax policy.
In a Current Conversation on Wednesday (Dec. 16), Cold Spring Mayor Dave Merandy said, “I don’t think Putnam County likes us very much, and I don’t think they’re going to give us anything.” He noted that Putnam legislators voted this month to give raises to themselves and other top officials, including the county executive, but cut a relatively modest $7,500 and didn’t inform the village until after the fact.
The issue came up on Dec. 9 when the Legislature’s Health and Environment Committee met by audio connection.
Legislator Nancy Montgomery, who represents Philipstown and is the panel’s only Democrat, noted that Cold Spring now receives no financial support from the county to offset the costs of tourism. “Their only measure of support is being taken away,” she said, “Why?”
Unlike most counties in New York, Putnam does not share sales-tax revenue with the towns and villages in which it is generated. Carlin said that early this year, the state reduced sales-tax revenue for counties and instead transferred the money to the Aid for Municipalities program, which benefits communities such as Cold Spring.
This “purported state aid is really a withholding of county sales tax,” he said. In 2020, “having had that [occur], and realizing that we don’t provide money for trash services to any other municipality, we eliminated” the trash-collection funds for Cold Spring.
Michelle Ascolillo, the Cold Spring accountant, confirmed Wednesday that “the state withholds an equivalent amount from Putnam County’s sales-tax revenue in order to pay the village.”
In addressing legislators last week, Carlin said that for 2021, the state “doubled down and took even more of the county sales tax revenue for a distressed-hospital fund, which costs the county about $800,000 a year.” Consequently, he said, Putnam kept the Cold Spring trash-collection money out of the budget. “The state continues to assault the county revenue base.”
He said that because the budget is posted online, “I didn’t know nobody knew about” the change for Cold Spring.
“I feel bad about this,” said Legislator Carl Albano, who represents parts of Carmel and Patterson. “I wish somebody would’ve noticed this.” But, he added, “I don’t know that it [trash-collection assistance] should be” offered just “in one particular spot.”
Montgomery said village officials had informed the county that “we’re bombarded and we need some help” in dealing with a crush of visitors, including to Breakneck Ridge, which can attract 1,200 hikers on a pleasant Saturday or Sunday, and by car or train to the village, even with COVID-19 restrictions.
Despite Montgomery’s pleas, other legislators observed — as they have in the past — that while Putnam does not share sales-tax revenue, it covers defaulted property taxes and community college charges for its municipalities, as well as the costs of holding elections.
Legislator Toni Addonizio pointed out that Kent, which she represents, doesn’t receive money for trash collection, and Legislator Ginny Nacerino, whose district includes Patterson, said “we don’t get anything” for the Thunder Ridge ski resort.
Montgomery noted, however, that Thunder Ridge is a private business.
Jeff Vidakovich, the Cold Spring clerk, said on Wednesday that the village would not receive its state aid until the spring but that village officials do not expect the funds will compensate for the funds lost from the county.
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