Sharing of Ulster County sales tax to be renegotiated

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Gerentine – county has “stepped up …”

KINGSTON – Richard Gerentine, chairman of the Ulster County Legislature’s
Ways and Means Committee, delivered a presentation to legislators Tuesday
night, detailing the ongoing negotiations with local municipalities, to
recalculate their share of the sales tax revenue.
The deadline is February 28, when all the municipalities must be on board with the county executive’s office, along with the county legislature. At that time, the two-year application process begins to renew the sales tax extension with state lawmakers.
Gerentine said talks began last Thursday between County Executive Michael Hein and the Kingston city mayor’s office, including both party leaders and legislative chairman Kenneth Ronk.   Gerentine and Ronk are Republicans.  Hein is a Democrat.
Estimated projections, sales tax revenues, and budgetary numbers, prepared for Ways and Means, all indicate that local municipalities have, in general, not passed along any savings to taxpayers after Ulster County assumed all safety net social services and election expenses.
“Despite these savings being created by the takeover of the safety net and election costs, the taxpayer has been paying more for town and city government,” Gerentine said, adding the county can discuss what to do with the 1.5 percent additional sales tax that is not expanded.
Gerentine said the county has “stepped up, took on additional expenses, which has been very demanding on us; we tried to keep our costs down for the county portion of our tax bill, and been very successful at that.”
Rochester Town Supervisor Carl Chipman, who was at the Ways and Means Committee session, disputed some of the findings, noting that taxes have gone down during the eight years he’s been in office. Since county takeover, Rochester’s election costs have quadrupled, and safety net costs ballooned from $30,000 in 2008 to $200,000 today.
“You can’t paint a stripe over this,” Chipman told the committee.  “You guys denied it when I screamed and yelled several years ago.” He said that welfare checks were being issues like hamburgers at McDonalds, how many millions served, which was not a problem until Ulster County assumed responsibility for the bills.
Other factors Chipman said the committee missed are the ever-increasing costs of health insurance, not applicable to a self-insured county government. “There is a different side to this coin here; let’s look at a more equitable situation, and realize the county didn’t do us a favor, they did what was right by taking over the Safety Net – it’s what everybody else was getting in New York State.”
Two years ago, Hein and Assemblyman Kevin Cahill locked horns over the safety net issue, in regards to the sales tax extension, culminating in a budgetary crisis which rocked the county.