The new sales tax agreement that was approved by the City of Kingston’s Common Council and Ulster County Legislature is a document which seems fair and equitable at first blush.
However, after you peel away the layers, beyond 2017, the City will forfeit a portion of sales tax receipts. Kingston stands to lose up to $8 million during this five-year agreement. The sales tax growth freeze will help the county offset their “critical” expenses. This does not benefit all city taxpayers and residents. There is a lot at risk here.
Is this the best we could hope for? Absolutely not.
Co-mingled in the agreement are a number of shared services plans which have no place in a sales tax agreement:
- A shared county-wide bus system whereby the county gets the entire allocation from federal reimbursements;
- The city agrees to maintain the linear park rail trail forever (mowing, plowing and trash detail). This is another assignment for DPW/Parks Department at taxpayer expense. Ironic that the new city administration denied a Cinco de Mayo event to take place on Broadway because it cost too much in overtime to sponsor it. But the taxpayers will maintain this trail forever.
- The vehicles at the impound lot on Golden Hill at the old County Jail parking lot will be moved to city property for storage because the property is being marketed as shovel-ready. The truth is Ulster County has plenty of lots and/or spaces to store their own vehicles.
Because the inexperienced city administration agreed to a poorly drafted document, it’s too late to offer addendums to an agreement which should have never left the negotiation table.
Kudos, though, to the council members who voted against this agreement (Deb Brown, Lynn Eckert and Maryann Mills) who understand this signed document puts the city in jeopardy.
Ellen DiFalco, Kingston
Give the trail 30 years
After 30 years of exclusive monopoly on the use of the Ulster & Delaware rail corridor by the Catskill Mountain Railroad, its long term lease has now expired. The citizens of the County, as represented by both legislative and executive branches, have overwhelmingly decided that the optimal use of the corridor is for conversion into a world class rail trail, with possible train operations co-existent on segmented portions in Kingston and Shandaken.
Recently however, a small minority group of die-hard rail fans under the moniker Save the Rails, ignoring more than three years of exhaustive research and expert analysis, has mounted a concerted protest to that decision with signs, social media blitzes, rallies, and tying up the legislature’s public comments time with ill-informed and unrealistic calls for a continuation of train operations for the entire corridor and no conversion of any part.
The public, and the county governing bodies, should not be fooled nor swayed by these belated and outsized clamors.
The data for the optimization of the use of the corridor by the citizens of the county as a key section of a world-class county rail-trail system could not be more clear. Active tourism is a $345 billion industry growing at 65 percent a year, with multi-day spending of $947 per trip. The Erie Canalway Trail generates $55 million in non-local-visitor spending annually. The Great Alleghany Passage Rail Trail $24 million. The Walkway, already $24 million. The railroad-oriented Stone Consulting company, working for the County, concluded that the Ashokan section of the network will be one of the most stunning rail trails in the Northeast. Some $9 million in grant spending has already come into the county for trail construction alone.
In addition, the use of the U&D corridor by County and Kingston residents is projected to leap from the only 1,000-2,000 who rode the train annually in recent years, to more than 100,000 annual uses of the trail for health, recreation and transportation benefits.
Building the trail will produce enormously expanded benefits to the citizens of the county over the next 30 years. But in order to realize those benefits, the work on design, construction and utilization must go forward. The county must move into a new and exciting future, rather than being impeded by limited nostalgia for an era that has passed.
William Sheldon, Kingston