2022 is looking to be a time of change in New Paltz, at least when it comes to the flow of tax dollars into and out of the village. Trustees have announced their intention to redirect how sales tax is shared to the benefit of village residents in the future, and have learned that the boon in those taxes last year might be shared more generously than most of that money. They have also been invited to let county officials chase down payment of delinquent property taxes, but the village treasurer seems to be quite skilled at that task, ensuring that village coffers are not denied their due.
The question of excess 2021 sales tax was discussed early in the July 13 meeting, raised by county legislator Eve Walter. Town supervisors and village mayors have been grumbling for some years about having to share three percent of the county sales tax among their 23 governments, and in 2020 they successfully lobbied for a promise that, should more sales tax come in than was budgeted in a given year, the county executive and Kingston mayor would discuss changing how those surplus dollars are shared. Only those two individuals were given a say because county and city governments are empowered to levy a sales tax, but town and village governments are not. In theory, all of that money could remain in Kingston, and it wouldn’t be illegal.
Nevertheless, 2021 was a banner year for sales tax in Ulster County, and when Pat Ryan was asked about a redistribution plan at the end of April, the county executive expressed a preference that this extra money be targeted. Ryan offered affordable housing as an example of an appropriate cause. Whatever idea Ryan and Kingston Mayor Steve Noble cooked up has the support of county legislators. According to Walter, the plan Ryan offered has been received well in the Ways and Means Committee, and could well pass muster with the full legislature. Walter did not provide any specifics, but feels “confident that it will pass,” adding, “It helps that it came from the executive office, and that legislators have heard from [town] supervisors.”
While municipal leaders don’t get a legal say in whether and how sales taxes are doled out, it seems that village mayors and their trustees get a narrow exception: when funds are shared, they get to decide if the full amount goes to the town treasury, or if a portion should be sent directly to village officials instead. That’s an annual decision, and in recent years New Paltz’s trustees have gone with the former model and agreed to have that money all mixed into town tax funds, and are used to the benefit of all town residents. At the July 13 meeting, the vote came down the other way. In a short resolution voted on with no discussion, trustees resolved to exercise the village option “to receive sales tax distribution directly from Ulster County on a cash basis beginning in the year 2022.” The mayor said afterwards that this decision would not impact current budgets, and was based on time spent “understanding the process.” This would redirect around $75,000. Rogers declined to answer a question about whether town officials had advance notice of the decision.
Legislator Walter also reminded trustees of plans around using county resources to help collect unpaid property taxes, but was not given a clear signal that village officials will participate. Clerk-treasurer Nancy Branco is “aggressive” with this issue, Rogers explained; village tax liens are regularly sold to investors to get those funds into the public coffer, perhaps faster than they could arrive using another legal process.