A build-up of surplus funds in the coffers of many Hudson Valley counties could prevent elected officials from resorting to an increase in property taxes to offset expected budget shortfalls from declining sales taxes, reduced state aid and higher energy costs.
As the region’s economy slows, a windfall of surprisingly high tax receipts over the past several years should give county leaders plenty of flexibility to avoid sticking property owners with higher tax bills—if officials and citizens focus attention on drawing down the large, available cash reserves. Read more
The sprawling 1,000-unit Durst subdivision proposed on the Dutchess-Columbia border has turned a critical corner with the developer apparently conceding to a drastic reduction in the scale of his original project and a redesign of its layout that would protect environmental resources.
Now in its fourth year of a public review led by the Pine Plains Town Planning Board, the Durst development remains a long way from approval, but recent statements from the developer, town officials and citizen leaders opposing the plan suggest that a much smaller, more compact subdivision could be up for final consideration by early next year. Read more
Columbia County’s recent ruling to deny large tax breaks to the developer of a 565,000-square-foot shopping center is a commendable decision, but it was made for the wrong reasons and it highlights the complexities of offering taxpayer subsidies to promote private commerce in our towns. Read more
The following is a copy of a letter to the Pine Plains Town Planning Board, the lead agency charged with reviewing the potential impacts of Douglas Durst’s proposed 1,000-home subdivision.
Ladies and Gentlemen of the Planning Board:
The Durst Organization has produced for you a labyrinth of numbers in its 1,500-page Environmental Impact Statement, all of which paint a glowing portrait of an environmentally sensitive, financially beneficial windfall for our rural communities. Read more
In a recent blitzkrieg of mailings to our homes, the Durst Organization extols the glories of its past accomplishments, the smiling family at its helm and the “environmental” virtues of its proposed Carvel development. But the glossy brochures, which offer a slew of misleading environmental claims and wildly inaccurate financial projections, neglect to tell us anything about the key players overseeing the project, their motivations or their track record in guiding comparable developments.
One of the mass mailings invites us as “dear neighbors” to “meet the Durst family,” and in this and future postings we hope to get to know the Dursts, not their soothing, sepia-toned portraits gracing the brochures, but their capabilities, their character and their business strategy. Read more
We begin our “Durst Watch” series with links to four columns we’ve published since 2005. The first lays out the basic principles for our analysis of the costs and complications of growth in small towns. The other three explore in more detail the primary cause of tax increases brought on by rapid development: the cost of educating children from the new homes who attend the local public schools. Read more
As the slowing U.S. economy curtails municipal tax revenues across the country, many Hudson Valley counties, including Columbia, Dutchess and Rensselaer, are also facing sharp increases in capital spending on roads and buildings.
The dual perils of declining sales taxes, which comprise 30-50% of a county’s tax revenues, and a large backlog of urgent capital projects will likely put a growing burden on property taxpayers, especially in more heavily indebted counties that cannot borrow much money to fill the fiscal gap. Read more