Mayor Noble is right. The sales tax talks with the county really are “one of the most important negotiations we will enter into,” as he said last week. At stake is a huge chunk of the city’s revenue stream. Entering into play is the possibility that the city will reassert the right to levy its own sales tax, a move that would have vast ramifications — some of which are foreseeable, some not — for both the city and the county budgets for years to come.
The editorial position of the Kingston Times is this: Any cut in the city’s share of the sales tax would mean, immediately, two unacceptable negatives for Kingston, the city this paper covers, and the city this paper loves. The first negative would be a whopping property tax hike. The second, cuts in services to the residents and businesses of Kingston, because a tax hike big enough to cover the loss and hold the budget harmless would be a tax hike too big for the city to swallow.
Put another way, cutting the city’s sales tax take would have a more harmful and more direct impact on the city than a cut in the county’s take would have on the city. Don’t buy the argument that all taxes come from the same pockets, so it’s not relevant which entity gets them or in what proportion. The city’s budget is pretty tight and certain to get tighter as Kingston’s pressed into dealing with a very creaky infrastructure. Choking off the sales tax means fewer cops on the street, fewer DPW workers on the job, needed road and water/sewer fixes put off. All at a time when Kingston’s finally on the verge of a real blossoming, culturally and commercially.
For some dilemmas, there’s an ethically correct answer. For others, a win-win scenario can be arrived at. But sometimes, struggles between two entities lack a clear ethical choice, or truly are zero-sum games. So it seems in this case: the county’s gain is the city’s loss and vice versa. Life, especially in a time of very low property tax hike caps, can be like that. When it is like that, true wisdom resides in knowing where one stands, knowing where others stand and acting accordingly. No office-holder who’s for taking sales tax away from Kingston can honestly say they’re a supporter of Kingston, and should be viewed by the people of Kingston accordingly.
This paper stands for the City of Kingston, as well as the towns of Ulster and Esopus, which would also suffer severe hits. Mayor Noble and the Common Council must remain resolute and thoroughly explore all options towards preserving the vital work the city government does for its people. A people who should take note of where their elected officials come down on this issue — and remember that the next time they ask for the people’s support at the polls.