Putnam County Executive Kevin Byrne presented his State of the County address on March 7. Here are six highlights:

Kevin Byrne
Kevin Byrne

1.The county will not collect sales tax on clothing and footwear purchases of less than $110 through March 1, 2026. “That means that clothes or shoes you buy online or at any store in Putnam County will have a 4 percent discount,” Byrne said. “Finally, it’s cheaper to buy right down the road at Marshalls [in Brewster] than it is to go to Dutchess, Westchester or Danbury. 

“I recognize that to the majority of our residents, this sales tax cut is not going to make or break your individual budgets,” he said. “But as we live within this time of economic uncertainty, with inflation still running rampant and increased costs of everyday goods, it is up to us as public servants to find ways — no matter how small they may seem — to provide financial relief when possible.”

Byrne said his office has led by example in cutting costs and closed the fiscal year $110,000 under budget. He also noted he had traveled to Albany to testify at the state budget hearing on proposed cuts to the Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS). 

“Last year, Putnam County received $1.2 million from CHIPS that was directly used to resurface county roads,” he said. “The Village of Cold Spring relies heavily on CHIPS, with more than 50 percent of its highway maintenance funding coming from this state program. Any cut to this funding would be unmanageable and cause significant stress to county, town and village budgets.” 

2.Byrne said he had “requested the state comptroller’s assistance in conducting a risk assessment of our finances and operations” and that the county had launched a construction project portal online that includes updates on road projects. He also said Putnam plans to launch a site “that will display detailed budgetary information in a more digestible format for the layperson who may not have a degree in accounting.”

3.Byrne noted that the Legislature installed cameras in the County Office Building to broadcast committee meetings. “I applaud the Legislature, especially the leadership of Chairman [Paul] Jonke, for this action,” he said. “I look forward to being able to view your committee meetings remotely.” [Editor’s note: Legislator Nancy Montgomery, who represents Philipstown and part of Putnam Valley, for years has been campaigning for video broadcasts, without success.]

4.The county executive said Commissioner Barbara Barosa of the Planning, Development & Public Transportation Department and her team “have been working tirelessly to get Putnam designated a Climate Smart Community. After initial efforts in 2019 stalled, we’re now finally moving forward with a Climate Community Task Force. And, earlier this week, a plan and application was submitted to New York State for bronze certification.”

He said that the Transportation Department, led by Vinny Tamagna, is initiating a pilot program for on-demand transit rides on the east side of the county. “Access to public transportation continues to be a challenge in a county like ours that is dominated by suburban communities, narrow, windy local roads and a lack of major metro areas,” Byrne said.

5.Byrne proposed that the county merge its purchasing, central services and information technology departments into a Department of General Services led by John Tully, the director of purchasing and central services. He noted that surrounding counties and the state each have a similar agency. 

He said Tully and IT Director Thomas Lannon had drafted a proposal for the Legislature to consider. “We already did the financial changes within the budget — this proposal does not cost us a dime more,” he said. “It is my sincere hope that we can move quickly, respond to questions and get this done, together.” 

6.Because his office and the Law Department “discovered a number of inefficiencies, contradictions and omissions” during a review of the county charter, Byrne said he created a Charter Review Committee, which he said would be advisory and distinct from the Charter Review Commission. He said his committee includes Nelsonville Mayor Chris Winward; Frank DelCampo, a former deputy county executive and Town of Carmel supervisor; and Margery Keith, former executive director of the Cornell Cooperative Extension. 

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

A former longtime national magazine editor, Rowe has worked at newspapers in Michigan, Idaho and South Dakota and has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in journalism from Northwestern University. Location: Philipstown. Languages: English. Area of Expertise: General.

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1 Comment

  1. You write that Nancy Montgomery “for years has been campaigning for video broadcasts, without success.” On the contrary, video broadcasting is a huge success for Montgomery. Her vocal advocacy over the last five years clearly convinced the Legislature of the greater transparency and community involvement that video access could provide.

    Unfortunately, we know that the Republican majority will continue to hold caucuses behind closed doors that are not recorded and exclude Montgomery, a Democrat. Still, I applaud her for her continued advocacy for full community access to our government. Open government is true democracy.

    Likewise, regarding the county’s participation in the state Climate Smart program, stating that an application will finally be submitted is an understatement. Against resistance, Montgomery advocated that the Legislature enact a critical resolution, which it did in 2019. Climate Smart provides grants to local governments to “take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to a changing climate” and “offers grants, rebates for electric vehicles and free technical assistance.”

    Over the past five years, Montgomery has continually requested updates on the county’s application, only to find nothing being coordinated. The lack of certification had resulted in the loss to the county of thousands of dollars.

    Now, finally, County Executive Kevin Byrne says an application has been submitted for bronze certification. With the environmental and fiscal environment that the county finds itself in, it is shameful that this took five years. Thank you to Legislator Montgomery for fighting to get this done.

    Inaction and inaccessibility are unacceptable in any governmental body. Our communities — and our journalists — should applaud Montgomery’s dedication and foresight.

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