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High taxes blamed for declining Twin Counties population

April 19, 2019 10:02 pm

Population in the Twin Counties is on the decline, according to the latest report from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The annual census data factors in birth, death, immigration and emigration rates from 2010 to 2018. Columbia and Greene counties ranked 14th and 31st in the state, respectively. Greene decreased at a rate of 1.59%, or 785 residents, and Columbia at 3.1%, or 1,959 residents.

Local officials were not surprised by the news, saying that high taxes were to blame.

“It’s no shocker that every municipal agency is strapped by the state Legislature and governor to deliver mandated services which increases property taxes,” Greene County Legislature Chairman Patrick Linger, R-New Baltimore, said.

“The state needs to take responsibility for what they mandate,” Linger said.

Columbia County Board of Supervisors Chairman Matt Murell agreed.

“People are voting with their feet,” he said. “They can’t afford to live here or retire after.”

Cold winters in the Northeast are not to blame, Greene County Treasurer Peter Markou said.

“It’s not because of the snow,” he said. “It’s because the cost of doing business and living here is extremely high. People are getting older and looking to retire in a warmer climate with lower taxes.”

The top 10 states that New Yorkers move to are Florida at 21.9%, New Jersey 13.6%, North Carolina 8.1%, Texas 7.4%, California 6.7%, Pennsylvania 6.4%, Connecticut 5.3%, Georgia 4.5%, South Carolina 3.4% and Virginia 3.2%, according to data from the IRS.

The most common destinations for Columbia and Greene county residents are Massachusetts and South Carolina, respectively.

On the state level, state Sen. Daphne Jordan, R-43, also thinks taxes play a role.

“Recent Census Bureau estimates indicating that residents continue saying ‘I leave New York’ and that our out-migration continues isn’t a surprise,” Jordan said.

“Taxes are too high. New York is unfriendly to businesses large and small. Families in my 43rd Senate District are angry about the billions in new taxes and fees imposed on them through the 2019-20 state budget,” she said. “Our hard-working family farmers are hurting and closing their doors — and the next generation can’t afford to take on a farm to generate a living.”

The problems are serious but the solutions are straightforward, Jordan said. To make New York more affordable means no new taxes and fees, cutting job-killing government red tape and creating good-paying jobs for the state’s young people.

“I’ve heard from taxpayers all across my district that they oppose the radical, extreme legislation Albany’s enacting. Folks want to escape from New York — and that won’t change until Albany changes and starts putting taxpayers first,” Jordan said.

Lower birth rates are also a contributing factor, Murell said.

“When I graduated in 1973, I graduated with almost 300 kids,” he said. “Today there are graduating class of less than 100.”

As people vacate the state in search of lower taxes, it increases the tax burden on the remaining residents, Linger said.

“You are also at risk of losing representatives at the federal level as well,” Linger said.

Populations struggling with low populations also miss out on population-based state aid, Murell said.

“Greene County’s strategy for attracting visitors has been through tourism,” Linger said. “We do the best we can with the tools we have available to us. We have been successful at making this a four-season destination instead of just focusing on the mountaintop in the winter.” Tourists often fall in the love with the area, Linger said.

“Many people come back and start their own businesses,” he said.

Murell thinks that establishing job opportunities is key to attracting new residents.

“Traditionally, this area had industry,” he said. “The economy now is focused on the service area. Having good-paying jobs would definitely benefit the area. People would move in to take jobs.”

Markou agreed.

“We have to create more jobs that provide a livable income for the people who live here and for young people,” he said. “It’s a beautiful place, but where are the jobs? People go where there is opportunity.”

Like Greene County, Columbia County has been targeting the tourism market.

“People will visit and end up living here,” Murell said. “It’s a beautiful area.”

The influx of tourists is bringing a whole new population, Markou said.

“They are bringing their income and new ideas into the community,” he said. “And we can always use new ideas.”

Aside from catering to tourists, offering services is critical, Catskill Town Supervisor Doreen Davis said.

“We need to make sure that we encourage people to come by providing reasonable services such as broadband,” Davis said. “It is hard to move if you can’t get appropriate service at your house.”

Greene County Administrator Shaun Groden agreed that broadband expansion is a priority.

“It is our goal to extend broadband to all corners of the county,” he said.

Quality education is also important, Davis said.

“We have to encourage teachers to come here so young families will want to live here,” she said.

Groden does not foresee population trends changing soon.

“New York has a reputation for being the highest taxed state in the nation from a property and income tax standpoint,” Groden said. “I don’t see that [population decline] slowing down.”

Yet, astonishingly, Pat Linger for all his lip service to being concerned about taxes joined fellow Republicans and a couple of misguided Democrats in voting for a $90M bond obligation that would increase our taxes from 16-25% over 30 years to pay for a jail we don't need based upon phony projections predicated upon manipulated 2014 jail population figures that the facts don't support.

Our jail population of detainees is headed South, but our taxes are being boosted North as the Bond Issue will result, foolishly, in locking in an obligation that cannot be unwound for at least 30 years. This isn't just foolish, it's tragic, and several people have told me they intend to sell and move if this stupidity comes to be implemented.

In fact our jail costs have been LOWER the past three years due to a population of detainees declining at an even faster rate than our general population here in Greene County.

Meanwhile, the Legislature seems to have little grasp of how to come to grips to GROW OUR TAX BASE. Selling out to toxic waste ash dumps or jails isn't going to encourage INTELLIGENT, SUSTAINABLE, ECOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENT OF OUR FALLOW TAX ASSETS.

Here is Catskill a preponderance of potential value remains held by non-taxable entities that properly developed could add as much as $500,000,000 to our tax rolls. But, all the Republicans think of is how to snipe and bicker, while wheedling for small patronage government jobs. One third of our jobs are government related here in Greene. That and the pension costs are why taxes are out control augmented by STUPID - i.e. jails instead of economic development. To "save" 30 correction guard jobs, Sheriff Seeley in consort with the guard union, has advocated a $90M capital expenditure that will drive up taxes further!

People aren't going to want to buy in a toxic dump with jails. It's stupid, stupid, stupid. There are no other words to describe this total lack of vision and planning policy. Sorry.
Legislative Chair Patrick Linger blames the state, but the real problem is Greene County Government. They lack new money industry, there is almost no tech. No one is planning for these, and so we get these results.

The only infrastructure project is a jail, with an insane $90 million price tag. 100% of this money comes only from Greene County taxpayers! 100% of the construction and interest costs leave the County - no local crews bid and the interest goes to USDA. There's absolutely no justification for the project since a) there are 691 empty cells in the adjoining counties, and b) we have very little crime. The current 47 detainees will shortly drop to 40 and as low as 30 or even 20. Why? Bail reform just passed. Raise The Age is removing all teenagers. Hurrell-Harring v. NYS provided enough funds to allow an attorney at every court appearance. Rules of Evidence changed giving defendants documents before not at trial.

Greene County's spent at the top of the 2% tax cap the past two years. This project is entirely new and completely over the 2% cap. This is only allowed if there is no alternative. The county intentionally avoided the alternative, failing to spend $5,000 on a shared jail study. It's time to halt the project and this time reassess based on actual need and using all alternatives such as rehabbing 80 Bridge St. Oh, btw, the Sheriff's Office must remain in the county seat, all of it.

I‘ve sued the county to prevent them from building this monster in Coxsackie. The scale for the jail is based on false reports from RicciGreene. No amount of cost savings was possible, building at that site for 138 or 98 or 80 or 60 costs almost the same. Breaking ground costs $8 million because the site has no utilities. The soil is clay which means geothermal cannot be used. It also means a 6’ hole filled with gravel must be made to float any buildings, concrete can’t sit on wet clay.

These are the titles and links to the law suit, called an Article 78. You’re encouraged to follow as this proceeds and add whatever you can to the case. The case is titled Scott Myers v. The Municipality of Greene County, Administrator Shaun Groden, Legislature Chair Patrick Linger, 902208-19, Albany Supreme Court, Hon. Margaret Walsh judge.

The next court date is May 6, 2019, with responsive papers due May 1. The Court’s address is Albany County Courthouse, 16 Eagle Street, Room 38, Albany, NY 12207

2090415 Order To Show Cause - By Motion for Preliminary Injunctive Relief

20190415 Notice of Motion, Article 78, To Halt Construction and Spending on a new County Jail

Exhibit 1 File of recusals, reversals and dismissals wSupporting Documents redacted

Exhibit 2 Exhibits supporting foil play by local law enforcement

Exhibit 3 Social and Media References