Philipstown Again Asks County to Share Sales Tax

Wants ‘unified front’ with villages, other towns

The Philipstown Town Board last week adopted a resolution urging Putnam County to return part of its sales tax gains to towns and villages.

Board Members John Van Tassel, Robert Flaherty, Judy Farrell and Jason Angell approved the measure at their Aug. 5 monthly meeting in Town Hall. Supervisor Richard Shea was absent.

The resolution proposes that, in an “equitable” arrangement, the county distribute 50 percent of any increase in sales tax over the previous year, allocating funds to each village and town on a per capita basis. According to Angell, Philipstown would have received $140,000 from the county in 2019 under such an arrangement.

The board cited Dutchess County, which, under a 10-year agreement that expires in 2023, each year sends $9.6 million in sales tax revenue to Poughkeepsie, $4.2 million to Beacon and $11.3 million to the towns and villages. The cities receive more because they waived their right to collect their own taxes.

Putnam sales taxSales tax goes first to New York State. The state sends a chunk back to each county, which, in most cases, returns a portion to towns and villages. Putnam is one of 11 counties that do not share the tax, according to the state comptroller.

The Philipstown resolution said that the lack of sharing puts local communities in the county at a competitive disadvantage with towns and villages in neighboring counties that receive sales tax revenue.

For years, Shea and other local officials have complained that Putnam does not return any sales tax. The county has responded that it provides towns and villages with services instead, such as covering unpaid municipal property tax, the costs of local elections and mandated funding of community colleges. It also operates a Sheriff Department substation in Nelsonville.

Last fall, county Finance Commissioner William Carlin noted that in early 2020 the state reduced the sales tax revenue it sent to counties and reallocated the money to the Aid for Municipalities program that benefits local governments. This “purported state aid is really a withholding of county sales tax,” he said.

In past years, Town Board members had suggested Putnam share its “surplus” sales tax, or the difference between the budget projection and the actual collection. Following that formula, in 2020 Putnam would have distributed just over $1 million among the municipalities, more than under the method proposed by the Philipstown measure.

Angell, who led efforts to draft the resolution, said on Tuesday (Aug. 10) that he had approached members of other town and village boards to gauge their interest. He said Nelsonville, Patterson, Kent and Southeast were open to the idea.

“In early October, we’ll pull together a meeting of all towns and villages that have passed the resolution and decide together the best next steps in approaching the county,” he said. During the Aug. 5 meeting, he expressed hopes for “a unified front. Every town and village has a self-interest, whether Republican or Democrat, in getting more community funding without raising taxes.”

6 thoughts on “Philipstown Again Asks County to Share Sales Tax

  1. Here we go again with the yearly “red herring” about sales-tax sharing.

    The politicians just love this, especially the ones who are running for office, because it gives them an issue, however phony, to run on. In fact, sales-tax sharing has been a talking point for so many years that probably both sides have the same speeches memorized by now.

    Let’s get the facts straight. There are good reasons why Putnam County does not share sales tax with the towns. Putnam uses sales tax revenue to finance a large chunk of our county budget, thus taking the burden off of the homeowners’ property taxes. In other words, people from all over the world are helping to ease our tax burden via their sales tax contributions. This is why I could never understand why so many of the Cold Spring residents seem to hate the Main Street businesses.

    These are some of the things paid for by the county: Sheriff’s department, social services, Medicaid payments to the state, community college tuition, emergency services, health department, senior centers and elections support. See the county budget.

    The politicians can slice it and dice it however they want, but even they know the truth. The fiscal responsibilities and services that the county pays for would bankrupt the individual towns if they had to pay for them, even with the puny sales tax contribution.

    People like Jason Angell and the others, who know better, should put their efforts to getting services in lieu of tax contributions. Example: The county should be paying Cold Spring a lot more money to maintain the restrooms and the tourism booth as well as garbage cleanup. The county tourism agency should be financing events and advertising for the village, which is the main tourist attraction in Putnam. Or how about getting money for the riverfront and a police boat on the river?

    It’s so much easier to pretend to care about the taxpayers than to do the actual work that will get results and save money.

  2. I would be the first to admit that asking Putnam County to share sales tax with towns and villages — like all the counties around us do — is not a new issue. You don’t give up on doing the right thing because it’s hard or takes a long time. But here are the facts that make this proposal different:

    1. Putnam County’s sales taxes are skyrocketing, largely due to the fact that starting in 2019 New York State allowed online sales tax collection from tax dodging monopolies like Amazon. County sales tax revenues even grew during the COVID 19 economic shutdown that hurt so many local businesses.

    2. At the same time, the County currently is sitting on a historic surplus of cash.

    3. The Share the Growth Putnam proposal is different because it simply asks the county to share any growth in sales tax from year to year. That means in the good times — which local businesses help create — everyone shares the economic benefits.

    It’s great that the county helps provide essential services that benefit local communities. That’s their job; that’s what counties all over our state do. By adopting a shared growth approach the county can keep their budget whole, keep providing those services, and return funding to towns and villages so they can address the top priorities of their local communities.

    Angell is a member of the Philipstown Town Board.

  3. All towns and villages deserve a portion of the sales tax revenue their businesses generate. What I don’t understand is why business owners and chambers of commerce put so little effort into persuading the Putnam County Legislature to share. They certainly put plenty of effort into griping about what villages don’t do for them with this nonexistent revenue.

  4. While complaining that it doesn’t get any sales tax revenue from the county, the Philipstown Town Board is still considering opting out of allowing the sale of cannabis, which could bring in excess of $140,000 in annual tax revenue for our town. Shortsighted, as usual. [via Instagram]

    • This is a point worth considering. If a local retail shop had annual sales of $1 million — which might be high given statewide competition — it would equate to roughly $30,000 of local revenues. If Philipstown moves forward with opting out, there will be a public hearing before the decision and I encourage folks to come out and voice their opinions.

      Angell is a member of the Philipstown Town Board.

  5. Philipstown Board Member Jason Angell has launched an effort to get Putnam County to share sales tax revenue with the communities that generate it. A comment in response to this effort appeared to be an attempt to muddy the waters, a common tact when arguing an indefensible position.

    Nearly every county in New York state shares sales tax, including all of our neighbors: Westchester, Dutchess, Rockland and Orange. This is because it is the right thing to do. What if, instead of giving you a paycheck each week, your boss told you he was going to hold your earnings and decide what you should spend it on — and then spend it for you? This is essentially what Putnam County does to all the towns.

    If one wants to argue that the county knows better than the towns, look at the record of how money has been spent in the past and will be in the future. The golf course, Tilly Foster Farm and an airport are a few prime examples that have continued to bleed money.

    I have been looking at the numbers for 20 years and the $8 million we send the county every year would easily cover all our needs, with plenty left over for local projects and tax cuts. Our money goes to fund a bloated county government and pet pro-jects for other towns like Carmel, which is coincidentally the home of the county executive.

    Money is money, and whether it is coming from sales tax or property tax, Philipstown should be getting more of it from Putnam. Good board members like Jason Angell are right to put in the effort to get that money for our residents.

    Shea is the Philipstown supervisor.