Some officials balk at Ulster County takeover of Safety Net welfare program
KINGSTON, N.Y. — There was little support Monday for a county takeover of the Safety Net welfare program from municipal leaders concerned the county would look to retake some of the sales tax revenues it now shares with the towns and city of Kingston.
But Ulster County Deputy Executive Kenneth Crannell said the state-imposed 2 percent property tax cap makes it all but impossible for the county to add the cost of a county takeover to the property tax levy.
“It’s going to take shared sacrifice,” said Crannell. “The county’s not going to be able to simply absorb the expense.”
County and municipal members of the Intermunicipal Collaboration Council met Monday to discuss the potential takeover of the program. County Executive Michael Hein last week said it is time for the county to address the way the program is funded. Ulster County is the only county in the state that requires local governments to pay for a portion of the state program. In 2011, the state increased the local-state split to 71 percent local and 29 percent state from the 50-50 split it had been previously.
“I believe the county can do it, but simply having the county absorb the expense doesn’t solve the problem for the taxpayer,” said Hein in remarks to the group at the start of the meeting.
“I believe there are solutions here that have eluded us so far,” he said.
Woodstock Supervisor Jeremy Wilber said he would not favor a county takeover that increased property taxes because residents in his town would end up paying more than they do now for the welfare program.
Kingston City Comptroller John Tuey, meanwhile, said the city would likely not support any plan that decreased its 12.5 percent share of the county sales tax revenues. “It the county’s looking to be made whole, it’s going to be a tough sell,” he said.
Ulster Town Supervisor James Quigley likewise opposed any reduction in the amount of sales tax revenue his town receives from the county. Quigley suggested the county use the unanticipated sales tax revenue it receives to offset the cost of a county takeover.
Council members plan to review the history of sales tax revenues and Safety Net costs, as well as municipalities’ reliance on other county services in an effort to develop a plan that would be acceptable to the towns, city and county. Continued...
Hein said that if a solution isn’t reached by the time he presents his budget in October, he will offer a solution of his own as part of his proposed spending plan.
Saftey Net is a state-mandated public assistance program primarily for single individuals, childless couples and those who have exceeded the 60-month limit for federal assitance.
Editor's note: This story modified 10:58 AM 05-8-12 to correct a quote.
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