New Paltz Town Supervisor Neil Bettez was clearly spooked by news that village trustees are planning to take the village share of county sales tax directly next year, rather than funnel through town accounts. Trustees agreed to that change at their last meeting, but Bettez only found out by reading about the decision in Hudson Valley One. It’s worried the supervisor enough to bring a resolution to exceed the tax cap to the August 18 town council meeting, but council members decided not to act on that without first asking their village colleagues to reconsider. It’s now clear that there will be no such change of heart.
At the meeting, Bettez explained that the $250,000 received in the last round went into the town’s A fund, which covers community-wide town services such as police, youth and senior programming, courts and the recycling center. With the village share being taken out, the remainder will have to be put into the B fund, which is only spent on services that lie entirely outside the village. In the letter sent the next day to Mayor Tim Rogers, it was pointed out that even though there would be sales tax revenue coming in, since it would be going into a different fund there will still be a $250,000 hole to fill in the A fund for next year.
Rogers sees it differently, as explained in an email that was copied to this reporter. Every resident of the town pays town taxes for the A fund, the mayor agreed, but the since the tax rate for the other portion — either general village taxes, or B-fund town taxes, depending on where in the town one lives — the reduction in that second tax should offset the increase in the one everybody pays. The impact could also be lessened by changes to how much tax is shared with local governments by county officials, but that new formula only kicks in when sales tax exceeds what’s budgeted.
The pair exchanged more messages, highlighting different views on where the money goes, and how to address perceived inequities. Bettez highlighted how court expenses are paid by all town residents, while the two governments receive a similar amount of fine revenue. Rogers countered that most of that revenue actually “goes to the county and state. This has been discussed before.” The supervisor also pointed out that without the village night life, the town police department could be significantly smaller. However, the mayor suggested that the town’s assessor values those commercial properties quite low, and that levying a “nightlife district charge” could be explored to cover the costs associated with the highly-profitable bar scene. On this question, it’s clear that village and town officials are not in unity. If and how this decision will ultimately affect taxpayers should become evident as new budgets are proposed in both municipalities.