Take it from Tony

“The people aren’t as stupid as we (aldermen) think they are.”, stated former Kingston alderman Tony Crespino. What he meant he said, after the hilarity died down, was that the people are actually smarter than some aldermen believe.

Maybe they are.

Rep. Antonio Delgado issued a press release last week announcing under “his” plan that the $1.9 trillion  COVID-19 relief package approved by Congress a few days later would direct some $400 million to his 19th congressional district. That’s about average for the country’s 435 congressional districts, so at least we got our fair share, on paper.

But does anyone really believe that the final package, months in the making behind closed doors, was crafted by junior members of congress, like second-termer Delgado, or anybody outside the close- knit inner circle that dictates congressional policy?  Just asking.

Delgado’s release also detailed grant amounts for each of the 11 counties in the 19th district. Ulster County will get $34 million (about 10 percent of its operating budget), he said, and the city of Kingston receiving $9 million, about 12 percent of budget.

Elected officials can probably think of dozens of ways to spend these windfalls, but do they really need it? Despite the so-called economic crisis COVID was expected to bring, both the county and the city approved near zero-increase tax property tax levies last December. Since then, robust sales tax receipts have virtually reversed the dire sales tax projections advanced by officials. Clearly, this infusion will not be necessary, but don’t expect anybody to turn back a dime to the government.

Just when this flood of borrowed money hits the bricks remains a mystery. Local officials need time to draw up wish lists and there’s a federal bureaucracy to contend with. Untold hundreds of billions from last year’s stimulus package remain clogged in pipelines. More optimistic projections hope for maybe ten percent (after the $1,400 household payments), maybe in 18 months. Nice timing, however cynical. I urge readers to brace themselves for a slew of smiling congressman fliers announcing this or that capital project during the height of next year’s election season.

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DANCIN’ DAVE – They called legislature chairman Dave Donaldson Dancin’ Dave back when every other bar had a rocking band. Approaching 70 and with almost three decades in the legislature, it appears Donaldson, D-Kingston, can still boogie.

Witness his two-step – or was it three? – on an idea to impose a county tax on real estate sales in order to create a fund for low-income housing. Primarily the chairman’s idea, it started out as a one percent “fee,” which he reduced to half a percent on properties over $250,000. (Median sales prices on residential properties in Ulster last year, according to the board of realtors, was around $330,000.)

I don’t know what the dance man is about other than securing his bona fides in the low-income mid-town district he represents, but for any legislator in a swing district, voting for a tax increase in an election year would be considered political suicide.

It will not pass.

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NOT SO PLEASANT VALLEY – A couple of weeks ago, Northern Dutchess News reported on a major snafu in the town of Pleasant V alley: the town board had mistakenly adopted a 17.5 percent increase in the 2021 property tax. Residents went nuts when they got their tax bills in the mail.  Even though the town board had unanimously adopted the annual budget containing the increase, nobody seemed to know how it happened. An investigation was promptly launched and apparently swiftly finalized.

Here’s their answer (in part) in a letter signed by all five members of the town board to town property owners and published in the News: “It has been discovered that when the Town Budget for 2021 was transmitted to Dutchess County for printing of the tax bills, a clerical error was made. The levy for the Library Tax was essentially charged twice, as it was included both in the line item for the Library, but also in the Town levy.”

Readers may notice an inherent contradiction in that statement: printers print what they receive. The “clerical error” must have occurred during the town budget process.

Under state law, the town board can’t just give back the extra money they charged their constituents, but they can place it in a special reserve account and apply it against next year’s budget.

Red Raiders (as they’re known) should keep a close eye on this clerically challenged town board when next year’s budget is presented come late October. Anyone running for reelection on a “17.5% tax reduction” should be summarily turned out of office.

To paraphrase the late Tony Crespino, the people are smarter than that.