Montgomery casts lone ‘no’ vote
The Putnam County Legislature on Oct. 30 approved a $195 million spending plan for 2024 that cuts the property tax rate to its lowest level in 15 years and includes funding for capital projects and a director of mental health position.
Nancy Montgomery, who represents Philipstown and part of Putnam Valley and is the Legislature’s only Democrat, cast the lone dissent in an 8-1 vote to approve Kevin Byrne’s first budget as county executive, a position the Republican won a year ago without opposition.
Byrne’s budget boosts overall spending by $16 million over 2023 but cuts the property-tax rate to $2.85 per $1,000 of assessed value, from $3.12. It includes $7.8 million in new spending for capital projects, which Byrne said will eliminate the interest costs of borrowing the money.
Before passing the budget, the Legislature amended Byrne’s proposal, eliminating two of the initiatives he touted when releasing his tentative plan: $250,000 for competitive grants to towns, villages and special districts, and $250,000 for grants to nonprofits.
Legislators used part of the savings to fund a sergeant position for the Sheriff’s Department at a cost of $180,027 for salary and benefits, and reduce Byrne’s proposed tax cut of $2.87 per $1,000 by two cents.
They also approved 2.75 percent raises for the county’s three coroners, the county clerk and sheriff; increased the auditor’s salary by $5,000; restored $36,000 in funding for Peers Influence Peers, an alcohol and substance abuse treatment program; and reinstated $6,000 for technology classes at senior centers.
The Board of Elections received an increase of its printing and forms budget from $100,000 to $150,000 because of the possibility of three primaries and high turnout in 2024 due to the presidential election.
Byrne on Wednesday (Nov. 8) vetoed the $50,000 addition for forms for the Board of Elections, saying the commissioners had told him they would be comfortable with a $25,000 increase. He also vetoed the salary increases for the three coroners, the county clerk and the sheriff. “I find it unfair to include pay raises for elected officials while we are still actively negotiating contracts with various collective bargaining units,” Byrne wrote.
The Legislature will meet on Tuesday (Nov. 14) to consider the vetoes.
Before the Oct. 30 budget vote, Montgomery criticized a decrease in funding for the Health Department, which she said has a longstanding shortage of nurses. Montgomery also said that legislators rejected a request for $6,000 for Philipstown to help with the “county-driven and advertised tourism that you impose on our district.”
She accused Republicans of ignoring District 1, where 77 percent of registered voters are Democrats or independents. “I do vote with you 99 percent of the time,” she said. “It’s you who chose to vote against me 99.9 percent of the time.”
Montgomery did join Republicans on Wednesday (Nov. 8) to approve a one-year exemption from Putnam’s 4 percent sales taxes on clothing and footwear purchases under $110, items which are already exempt from the state’s 4 percent sales tax.
The exemption, effective March 1, will expire on the same date in 2025. It applies to the 0.375 percent tax levied in Putnam, Dutchess and five other counties served by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s commuter rail service. The Dutchess exemption took effect on March 1, 2022.