Philipstown Fears County May Abolish Sales-Tax Sharing

Supervisor also suggests revamping emergency services 

The Philipstown Town Board last week focused on money matters — the pending 2023 budget; the budget that Putnam County just adopted; the possible termination of a sales-tax sharing plan the same year it began; and the expense, and potential revamping, of emergency services.

At the board’s Nov. 3 formal monthly meeting in Town Hall, Putnam Legislator Nancy Montgomery reported on the $179 million budget approved 8-1 by the Legislature on Oct. 28. The panel’s sole Democrat, Montgomery represents Philipstown and part of Putnam Valley and cast the lone “nay” vote.

In crafting it, legislators used a process “so insulting” to citizens, Montgomery said. Decisive meetings occurred on Friday nights and she said she found “the tone not conducive to public comment. It seems to be the norm in Putnam County — just really wanting to shut down public comment.” 

While acknowledging that Putnam’s budget does not raise taxes, she observed that Duchess and Westchester drafted budgets that cut taxes and that Duchess wants to promote affordable housing, invest more resources in fighting drug addiction and support other social services. “Impressive things are happening in other counties,” she said. 

She said she sought to increase funding for mental health because “we’re in the middle of a crisis,” not just in Philipstown but county-wide. 

Supervisor John Van Tassel mentioned having good interactions with Kevin Byrne, the state Assembly member who will become Putnam county executive in January after running unopposed. Montgomery, a Democrat like Van Tassel, also reported positive relations with Byrne, a Republican.

But Van Tassel cautioned that, according to Byrne, Putnam will likely rescind its nascent Share the Growth program, developed at the urging of Town Board Member Jason Angell, Cold Spring Trustee Eliza Starbuck and officials in other municipalities and endorsed by outgoing County Executive MaryEllen Odell. 

Unlike most counties in New York, Putnam does not distribute sales-tax revenue to the localities where it is collected. In July, the county Legislature unanimously agreed to pass along any sales tax that exceeds what the county collected the previous year. The Legislature also pledged $5 million upfront, divided among municipalities, with $369,670 for Philipstown, $101,671 for Cold Spring and $31,945 for Nelsonville.

The Legislature also unanimously approved a similar distribution of federal American Rescue Plan relief, in comparable amounts. 

Byrne suggested that instead of sharing sales tax, Putnam can supply services, Van Tassel said. 

“I’m going to hold him to it,” the supervisor promised. “We need services,” particularly for handling tourism. He said that unhappy residents demand that elected officials deal with the crowds and disruption, although “there’s nothing we can do. We can’t close the gates. We can’t stop people from getting off the train. We can’t close Route 9. The county needs to step up and provide us with some assistance. We are the tourist draw for Putnam.” 

It seems “we won this $5 million” in sales tax for municipalities this year, but “it’s a one-time [thing],” Angell said. 

The board said it would attempt to rally other communities to advocate Share the Growth. “I don’t think it should just go away without a fight,” Van Tassel said. 

Angell said Thursday (Nov. 10) that Philipstown had not yet received its Share the Growth funding for this year.

Emergency services

Addressing another financial concern, Van Tassel revived the concept of merging — to some degree — the town’s emergency services, which consist of four fire departments, five firehouses and two ambulance corps. 

“I’m very thankful for the emergency services,” he said. Nonetheless, he continued, they cost nearly $2.8 million annually, about $1 million more than the ambulance corps and town-wide fire department in Putnam Valley, which has a fairly compact area but larger population than geographically “enormous” Philipstown. 

“It may be time that [Philipstown’s] ambulance corps either combine or consolidate, or go into one of the firehouses,” Van Tassel said. “I’m not saying we need to consolidate. But I think there needs to be some alternative thinking, because we cannot just continue, year after year, increasing the budgets. It’s time to figure out a way that we can do this, either at the number we’re at, or even reduce it, and not lose any service.”  

In 2011, the Town Board commissioned a study that recommended consolidating the six agencies into one administrative entity, while preserving the firehouses. The proposal went nowhere when intense opposition arose. “We nearly were killed!” Van Tassel recalled. At present, though, “there’s a lot of cooperation” among agencies and innovations might be considered, he said. 

One thought on “Philipstown Fears County May Abolish Sales-Tax Sharing

  1. More than consolidation of emergency services, we should seriously plan to secede from the reactionary Putnam County and its monolithic Legislature, which doesn’t believe Philipstown is part of the county.

    The manner in which they treat our duly elected legislator, Nancy Montgomery, is outrageous and a slap in the face to our tax-paying citizens. Carmel needs Philipstown, not the other way around! The county with which Philipstown is aligned should be left to the voters.

    I’m not a new guy like some, if not all, on the county Legislature. I have lived here for all 78 years of my life. I have seen the Legislature go from an amenable body to one of nasty, rancorous amateurs whose only action seems to be giving themselves a raise every year.

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