In a recent blog,

we argued that our communities, and our local economy, would benefit from a renewed discussion of sales tax revenue sharing, thus allowing local governments to help direct surplus funds to where they are needed most and we urged the elected officials and the business community of Putnam County to begin discussions about making sales tax revenue sharing permanent, starting in 2023. Sales tax revenue collection in Putnam County continues to generate surpluses. In 2022, the County collected a record $81.9 million in sales tax revenue, approximately $17 million more than was budgeted. For the first 6 months of 2023, the County collected $42.9 million in sales tax revenue, $3.3 million more than the same period in 2022, which makes surpassing the amount of sales tax revenue included in the current year County budget ($74.8 million) again likely.

However, Putnam County Executive Kevin Byrne has been clear and vocal in his opposition to sales tax revenue sharing and we have had several constructive discussions with him and his staff about their opposition. Because sales tax is a lagging and unpredictable source of revenue, Kevin believes that it is best used as a secondary “balancing” factor (rather than a primary “funding” source) in managing the County’s finances, like balancing the budget and controlling the property tax levy when necessary.

When we discussed ways to provide “funding” to the towns and villages in the County other than through sales tax revenue sharing, Kevin talked about his continuing efforts to find opportunities to offer “real tax relief” through “partnerships” with local governments. The County’s recent decision to rehire emergency services company Empress Ambulance Services includes a good example of what the County Executive means by providing tax relief through partnership with the towns and villages. While not mandated by NYS law to do so, the new contract addresses the provision of Advanced Life Support (ALS) services throughout the County. But rather than push the cost of providing ALS services (estimated to be $4 to 5 million over the life of the contract) down to the Towns and Villages, which happens in many other NYS counties, the County will cover it. “Providing for the health and well-being of our residents will always be a top priority, and we’re excited to have a new agreement with a strong, reputable partner like Empress to bring quality services to Putnam,” County Executive Kevin Byrne said in the announcement.

This decision, which will provide real tax relief to local governments, was reached after extensive discussion with local emergency service providers to build consensus and ensure a working partnership.”This new agreement is a significant improvement and a win for county residents,” said Putnam County Bureau of Emergency Services Commissioner Bob Lipton. “The input we’ve received from those in the emergency services community was critical to this new contract, and we’re thankful for their input. There was a lot of collaboration to make this happen in such a timely manner.”

The challenge to local governments in Putnam County then in light of the Empress decision is to seek additional partnerships with the County on projects that will provide their citizens with real tax relief. The Putnam County Business Council stands ready to assist in this partnership building process.

Nat Prentice

President, Putnam County Business Council

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