Putnam Budget Brings Higher Taxes — and Dissent

Philipstown legislator casts lone ‘no’ vote 

The Putnam County Legislature has approved a $167.1 million budget for 2022, with Legislator Nancy Montgomery casting the sole “no” vote after failing to win support for restoring money for Sheriff’s Department Hudson River patrols and tourism-related garbage collection in Cold Spring.

The pleas by Montgomery, the lone Democrat on the nine-member panel, for $10,000 in aid for the Philipstown Behavioral Health Hub, an anti-addiction resource center, and for reinstating a sergeant’s position at the Sheriff’s Department civil division also went nowhere. 

Montgomery represents Philipstown and part of Putnam Valley. Five days after the Oct. 28 budget vote, she won a second, 3-year term by defeating Republican Barbara Scuccimarra, a former legislator, in a replay of their 2018 contest.

Arguing Oct. 28 that the budget needed work, Montgomery protested that it “extends salary increases to already overpaid elected officials and upper management” and “takes care of patronage hires” but “reduces funding for the essential services the county should be providing to residents.”

“The 2022 budget utterly fails taxpayers of Putnam County,” she said. 

The budget’s property tax levy is $46.7 million, up from $45.5 million; taxes will increase by 2.3 percent, which County Executive MaryEllen Odell assured legislators fell below a state-mandated cap. 

The budget increased the spending for the county executive’s office by 12 percent, or $92,500, to $841,806; spending for the Legislature remained flat, at $1.18 million.

(In a meeting on Tuesday [Nov. 9], the Legislature’s Personnel Committee considered 2 percent increase for Odell, to $170,070, county Clerk Michael Bartolotti, to $139,462, and the legislators, to $42,802.)

The Sheriff’s Department gets an increase of $287,266, to $20.6 million, while jail funding rises by $40,523, to reach $11.07 million.

The appropriation for the District Attorney’s Office fell by about $54,000, to $2.45 million, and funding for the Bureau of Emergency Services dropped $312,000, to $5.5 million.

Funding for Department of Social Services decreased by $652,000, to just under $29 million, and the Health Department budget fell by 31 percent, to $6 million. However, the Health Department, DA’s office and Emergency Services Bureau received more money in 2021 than initially budgeted as legislators made adjustments during the year.

Among cultural institutions, the Legislature plans to award $55,162 to the Putnam History Museum in Cold Spring and $10,000 to the Constitution Island Association. 

Montgomery objected to the process used to accommodate the Constitution Island Association. Without any proposal or plan, she told her colleagues on Oct. 28, “you all approved a $10,000 giveaway of taxpayer money,” and recognized the association as an “outside agency” of county government akin to the Cornell Cooperative Extension. She also reminded them that the group’s leaders include Vinny Tamagna, the county transportation manager (who lost his race for mayor of Cold Spring on Nov. 2) and Kevin McConville (the successful Republican candidate for county sheriff).

According to Montgomery, the budget also increases Tamagna’s salary to $105,635, a 40 percent jump from his starting salary eight years ago. She accused fellow legislators of giving him a lifetime “gold-plated retirement based on this jacked-up salary,” while county employees paid by the hour “retire with no pension plans at all.”

In addition, she blasted county cancellation of “the measly $7,500” once provided to help collect trash generated by visitors to Cold Spring, the “largest tourism draw in Putnam County and a location our tourism director relentlessly markets. I’m astounded that you toy with a public health issue like garbage removal.” 

County revenue exceeded expenses “by $38 million this last year,” Montgomery asserted. “Why are we raising taxes? Sales tax alone is up by $8 million. That’s public money that should be benefiting the public.”

In her Oct. 6 budget message, Odell said that “sales tax revenues have been fluctuating wildly during the pandemic,” causing uncertainty. On Oct. 28, Legislator Joseph Castellano of Brewster said the budget’s projected $62 million from sales tax reflects a “very conservative” approach. 

Other legislators castigated Montgomery.

“It just seems Legislator Montgomery has a lot of political opinions,” said Carl Albano of Carmel. “No village or town has the county pick up their garbage, so I don’t know what makes Cold Spring so unique.” Cold Spring tourism “has to be managed better, and they wouldn’t have these financial problems.”

Neal Sullivan of Carmel-Mahopac concurred, dismissing Montgomery’s comments as “all very politically motivated” and “not accurate or fair.” 

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