Here and Now: Highlights

SALES TAX AGREEMENT WITH LOCAL MUNICIPALITIES

The Sales Tax Agreement with Beacon and Poughkeepsie affects how sales tax will be applied to Towns and Villages. Some Town Supervisors and Mayors expressed concerns with the agreement because those terms would essentially apply to their local municipality. One issue at hand was the split of growth in sales tax revenue. For Towns to receive 2% of the growth and have it distributed based on population seems grossly unfair to Towns. The other issue was the 10 year lock in agreement. Towns and Villages are stretched to the limit trying to meet their obligations to residents and comply with the 2% tax cap. Even with these growing concerns, the County Legislature passed the resolution.

MUNICIPAL ELECTRICITY AND GAS ALLIANCE (MEGA)

MEGA is an aggregator of electricity and natural gas. The New York State Association of Counties (NYSAC) has partnered with MEGA to bring competitive energy prices to counties. I sponsored a resolution last year and this year asking the County to consider participating in MEGA and both times these resolutions were voted down. Ulster, Greene, Sullivan and 26 other counties have joined MEGA to save hundreds of thousands of dollars on their electric bills annually for their respective county buildings. The Democratic Caucus believes this could be a great opportunity to look for cost saving mechanisms in county government. MEGA only requires the County to fill out a participation authorization form to look at cost savings for the county before joining. Research this issue and you will find that Rockland County is saving about $1 million a year. Even County Exec. Diana (R) from Orange County has stated that municipalities who have partnered with MEGA saved between $11 and $12 million since April 2010 and the county alone is expected to save roughly $900,000 through the course of its 16 month contract. Why not Dutchess?

DUTCHESS COUNTY AIRPORT

Currently, we are awaiting feedback from a consultant and the County Executive to determine how the County can make the airport an economic engine. In the interim, the legislature voted for a measure to improve the airport to make it more profitable and to attract future investment. Such Improvements include a taxiway replacement, terminal enhancements, new equipment, machinery and other work; these improvements will be implemented at the airport and is part of a 5 year master plan with the FAA. The total cost of the project is $2,497,046. Federal aid is $1,882,800; State aid is $104,600; and county serial bonds are $509,646.

SOLARIZE DUTCHESS

The County Legislature passed a resolution authorizing the county to study the feasibility of installing solar power on county buildings as it could make for substantial savings for county taxpayers. This is intended to develop a community solar initiative to help residents and business owners overcome financial and logistical obstacles of installing solar power through high volume group purchasing. Solarize New York successfully merges education and community activism, simple low-cost advertising, job creation and economies of scale to drive participation. Now, we just have to make sure the program actually gets off the ground. If anyone has experience in this profession, please feel free to lend your suggestions to the County Legislature and the County Executive.

DUTCHESS COMMUNITY COLLEGE

The County Legislature voted 18-6 on Monday to approve the college’s $63.6 million spending plan for 2013-14 despite concerns voiced by some members. Although DCC’s tuition is among the lowest in the state and is the lowest in the Hudson Valley, I, along with other legislators voted against this resolution because a $200 increase in a two year period is too large and too much of a burden on the students. I think community colleges serve the needs of society by providing opportunities to students who otherwise could not afford to go to a four-year college.

DUTCHESS COUNTY SELF-INSURED WORKERS’ COMPENSATION PLAN

The legislature voted to offer its municipalities the opportunity to participate in the county’s self-insured workers’ compensation plan to reduce premiums. Workers’ compensation is an insurance program that provides wage replacement and medical benefits to people who suffer job-related illnesses and injuries. This is a shared service opportunity that will benefit the county, our municipal partners and taxpayers.

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