Prop­erty tax in­crease blamed on Moli­naro

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - By Mid-Hud­son News Network and Free­man staff

The chair­man of the Poughkeepsie Com­mon Coun­cil on Satur­day said the city is in its cur­rent fis­cal cri­sis be­cause Dutchess County Ex­ec­u­tive Marc Moli­naro and the Repub­li­can-led county Leg­is­la­ture “have cut the legs out from un­der the city for years and this fis­cal cri­sis and bud­get is the con­se­quence of their poli­cies.”

Pet­sas’ com­ments come af­ter Mayor Robert Roli­son, a Repub­li­can and former chair­man of the county Leg­is­la­ture, an­nounced his pro­posed 2017 city bud­get, which in­cludes a 16.5 per­cent prop­erty tax in­crease.

The crit­i­cism mir­rored a com­plaint about the re­dis­tri­bu­tion of Dutchess County sales tax rev­enues voiced re­cently by town of Rhinebeck Su­per­vi­sor El­iz­a­beth Spinzia.

The dis­tri­bu­tion formula in Ul­ster County also was changed this year in a time-pres­sured ne­go­ti­a­tion at the in­sis­tence of Ul­ster County Ex­ec­u­tive Michael Hein, a change that some crit­ics have said short­changes the city of Kingston.

Pet­sas ac­knowl­edged the new mayor “in­her­ited a fis­cal mess,” but the chair­man said Roli­son “needs to get Dutchess County gov­ern­ment to re­store Poughkeepsie’s sales tax rev­enue.”

He said since the sales tax formula change in 2013, Poughkeepsie tax­pay­ers have lost close to $6.8 mil­lion through the end of 2015 and that num­ber will grow even larger by the end of this year. “Un­der the county’s dis­tri­bu­tion formula, the city of Poughkeepsie’s sales tax rev­enue is down 17 per­cent since 2012, while the county’s por­tion is up 11 per­cent.”

Pet­sas said that, since 2012, gross sales tax re­ceipts have gone up six per­cent, while the county kept an ex­tra $17 mil­lion that would have been dis­trib­uted and shared among all of the mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties. That, he said, re­sulted in lo­cal dis­tri­bu­tion be­ing down 12 per­cent.

“Un­til Moli­naro changes the sales tax agree­ment with mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, any prop­erty tax in­crease for Poughkeepsie in 2017, is the ‘Moli­naro prop­erty tax in­crease,” Pet­sas said.

The Poughkeepsie Com­mon Coun­cil will vote Mon­day evening call­ing on Roli­son and Moli­naro to rene­go­ti­ate the cur­rent sales tax formula to “pro­vide greater aid to the city and all mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties.”

Un­der state law, coun­ties find it nec­es­sary to ne­go­ti­ate a shar­ing agree­ment with cities be­cause cities — but not towns or vil­lages — have a right to charge a sales tax of their own, ef­fec­tively pre-empt­ing a county sales tax within their ju­ris­dic­tion.

Shortly af­ter tak­ing of­fice in 2012, Moli­naro ne­go­ti­ated a new sales tax agree­ment be­tween the coun­ties and the city of Bea­con. The new deal, rep­re­sented a sea change in the way the county shared its tax rev­enue with mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, set­ting a base amount of $25 mil­lion to be divvied among mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties plus 18.5 per­cent of any growth in sales tax. Un­der the prior agree­ment, which ex­pired in 2005, the county kept 18.5 per­cent of all rev­enue, and the mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties shared 18.5 per­cent, with 55 per­cent of that go­ing to the county’s two cities.

Spinzia last month called the new formula “top down stran­gu­la­tion,” an “un­funded man­date,” and “the most dam­ag­ing pol­icy ever.”

In Ul­ster County, newly elected Kingston Mayor Steve Noble, a Demo­crat, was pressed by Hein, also a Demo­crat, to ac­cept a com­plex change in the dis­tri­bu­tion of sales tax rev­enue. The five-year deal caps the amount of sales tax the city could re­ceive in the fi­nal three years of the deal.

One critic, Kingston Alder­woman Lynn Eck­ert, DWard 1, said she was “ab­so­lutely mys­ti­fied” by the county’s ap­proach to ne­go­ti­a­tions. She said the county had not been a good faith ne­go­ti­at­ing part­ner and she was con­cerned how it would act when it came time to im­ple­ment the shared ser­vices. “For me, I think if the city faces any fi­nan­cial stress we have to re­mem­ber why and we have to hold Ul­ster County Ex­ec­u­tive Mike Hein ac­count­able and re­spon­si­ble for that fi­nan­cial stress,” Eck­ert said.


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