A sales tax agreement between Ulster County and the City of Kingston was unanimously approved by the County Legislature July 1, with the towns across the county receiving 4% of the sales tax collected in 2021 as a one-time disbursement of an additional 1%, or $1.5 million.
The current sales tax agreement between Ulster County and the City of Kingston shares 3% of sales tax with the towns for the period extending from March 1, 2021 through February 28, 2026.
“This is unprecedented in Ulster County, to share additional revenues with our towns, and really reflects our values — that when government entities work collaboratively, it better serves our residents,” said Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan in a July 20 press release. “Ulster County Town Supervisors have been vocal about wanting a larger share of the revenues, and we heard you.”
Kingston Mayor Steve Noble also touted the agreement in the county’s press release, as did Ulster County Legislature Chairwoman Tracey Bartels
But while some praised the deal, representatives of some local towns weren’t as satisfied with the ongoing arrangement. Though the vote to approve the deal was unanimous, some members of the Ulster County Legislature said they believed more should be done for towns in the future.
Joseph Maloney, a Democrat who represents both the town and village of Saugerties, said he felt that, based on population, the City of Kingston had an unfair advantage. According to July 1, 2021 estimates by the United States Census Bureau, the City of Kingston has a population of 24,100, while Saugerties has a population of 19,152.
“We have homeless shelters, rehabs, we’re struggling. Our property taxes are out of control, and we’re getting less than $500,000 out of sales tax while we may even produce almost as much (revenue) as the City of Kingston. And the City of Kingston gets about…$18 million every year. That’s why I’ve got young families moving out of Saugerties, where they’d like to be, where they were raised, and into the city of Kingston, because the property taxes are so different there. We could be a little more fair…I know I’ll get blowback from city of Kingston, but the truth of the matter is, the rest of these municipalities are not getting their fair share.”
Maloney called for vigilance on the next round of sales tax discussions in ensuring towns in Ulster County receive a more equitable slice of the pie.
“There’s definitely room for improvement here,” said Ulster County Minority Leader Kenneth Ronk, a Republican who represents the Town of Shawangunk. “The towns are receiving the extra 1%, but it’s all on the backs of the county. It’s my personal opinion that the City of Kingston should be in for their 11-and-a-half percent of the extra 1% towns are getting, because they got the same windfall that the county’s gotten and don’t have any skin in the game here when it comes to giving money back to the towns.”
Eve Walter, a Democrat representing both the town and village of New Paltz, described the arrangement as a good start. “I’m glad about this resolution,” she said. “I do feel strongly that more of a larger proportion of sales tax money should be going to the municipalities. And should I be around next time the agreement comes (up for vote), I will continue to work towards that. But in the meantime, this is a good consolation.”
Aaron Levine, a Democrat representing the Town of Saugerties, agreed. “I’m not going to let perfect be the enemy of the good,” he said. “This is a start, it’s not the end. It’s a good first step.”
Maloney suggested that when the current sales tax arrangement expires, the “simple solution” to ensure local municipalities receive a more equitable piece of the pie is to determine how much the City of Kingston would receive if they went it alone.
“It’s very simple math, we can get those numbers,” Maloney said. “Then you go to the negotiating table…They’re not going to walk away, because they’re getting more and they’d be causing mayhem. So let’s figure that out. And the next time we negotiate and give them a fair number, and then the towns that deserve a little more get a little more.”