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Regional Archives The Altamont Enterprise, April 1, 2010
Pitches teamwork instead Chairman
By Anne Hayden
ALBANY COUNTY After alerting municipal leaders last week that the annual sales tax revenues they receive from the county may be cut in 2011, Daniel McCoy, chairman of the Albany County legislature, sent out a second letter telling them not to assume “doom and gloom.”
McCoy told municipal leaders “not to read too much into a letter” that was sent to them on March 19. That letter stated that, due to the fiscal crisis, the county might have to analyze its distribution of sales tax revenue distribution. County sales tax revenue is currently split 60/40 between the county and the 19 towns, village, and cities within it, and funds the lion’s share of many municipal budgets.
The Enterprise broke the story on the potential revenue cuts last week, and quoted McCoy saying he did not anticipate any backlash from municipal leaders. But many, including Guilderland Supervisor Kenneth Runion, and Voorheesville Mayor Robert Conway, expressed their concern, and opposition to the proposal. Without the county revenues, Guilderland taxes would increase 12-fold, the supervisor said.
“All the county would be doing is passing off tax increases. They need to find alternative solutions, and live within their means, rather than punish the municipalities,” said Runion last week. This week, McCoy said that is just what he is attempting to do.
In his latest release, dated March 26, McCoy said, “The dire financial and fiscal situation that we are sharing is going to require a level of teamwork and cooperation that is unprecedented.” He told The Enterprise this week that he felt the purpose of his March 19 letter had been served.
“It got everyone talking. We have to get the dialogue going. Sometimes you have to shake the tree a little bit,” said McCoy. He said he had put together a budget committee, which will be meeting next week to discuss potential solutions for the fiscal crisis, other than changing the sales-tax revenue formula.
“Actually, the county would have to give municipalities six month’s notice before changing the formula, and we start preparing the budget in July, so I wouldn’t be able to do that until 2012, anyway,” McCoy said.
“I’m kind of pleased that they haven’t gone to judgment on it yet, and it does appear that the county is sensitive to the revenue needs of local governments,” Runion told The Enterprise this week.
Once the committee has decided on a course of action, McCoy, along with other legislators, will meet with municipal leaders in town-board-style meetings, he said. He informed elected officials, in his most recent letter, that he would be asking for input from citizens and business owners, and assembling a task force to explore the possible sharing of services among municipalities, school districts, and law enforcement agencies.
Runion said the town of Guilderland already has agreements to share some services, with the village of Altamont, the town of Berne, and the city of Watervliet. Guilderland has a shared service agreement with Albany County for election costs, which Runion said had not been a good experience because of the county’s formula for covering costs.
“If we do get other types of shared services, I think it will be really important to have a formula that everyone has agreed on, and not one that is simply imposed on us,” Runion said yesterday. He said he thought meetings between county legislators and municipal leaders would be a positive step.
“You really have to be careful about the way a message is delivered,” Runion said, in reference to the original March 19 letter. “From what’s happened since then, I’m optimistic that things will work out.”
“We’re all in uncharted territory here,” said McCoy. “We’re just trying to feel our way out of the forest.”