ISSUE & DEBATE
Editor’s Note: This is citizen Bill Waller’s recommendation in a March 29 letter to the Cooperstown Village Board on how to spend its expected share from the $1.9 trillion Biden Stimulus Plan.
Dear Mayor Tillapaugh and the Board of Trustees;
I read with interest statements relating to the benefits coming to Cooperstown from the recently enacted American Rescue Plan (ARP). According to press accounts, this could be nearly $350,000.
In reviewing the proposed 2021-2022 Village of Cooperstown Budget, I did not see any amount referencing the ARP disbursement. This is entirely understandable since the act has just passed, well after all the budget discussions held by the Board of Trustees.
As this is budget enactment time, I would like to express my opinion as to how these funds should be spent when they arrive.
…I would like to make a radical proposal: Give it back to the residents.
In this year’s proposed budget $1,779,194.00 is listed as the expected income from Village property taxes. I would urge adoption of the budget and then when the ARP funds are received, issuing a rebate check to our Village taxpayers. I would propose 10% of the taxes levied be sent back to every Village property owner as COVlD Relief. This would only cost $177,919.40.
While this may seem a radical proposal, I remind you that no one opposed the $600 and $1,400 checks mailed from the Federal Government. I feel that no matter how small an individual’s Village COVlD Relief may be, it will be well received. It would also be innovative, creative and will reward our Village residents for their endurance during the past year. And other than the massive error on the part of Otsego County Government resulting in 20% tax rebates a few years ago, when has a local municipality rewarded their residents by sending some of their money back?
ARP regulations stipulate that the funds cannot be used to reduce taxes, but they can be used to “offset the impact to households” caused by the pandemic. This would be a fair way to lessen the impact.
I know the Village Board could find many ways to spend the ARP money, giving some of it directly to residents would have a big impact.
Creative minds could even come up with a letter accompanying the relief check noting worthwhile community projects very willing to accept the resident’s donated refund if they so choose.
I hope you will consider my proposals at this opportune time as part of your budget discussions.
… and this is Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch’s April 5 response:
Thank you for your letter of March 29 pertaining to the American Rescue Plan (ARP) and your recommendations to the Village of Cooperstown on the use of the funds which we will receive.
…On March 23, Congressman Delgado held an information meeting concerning the ARP and provided more accurate funding information. He indicated the exact amount of ARP funds which the Village will receive is unclear at this time.
The U.S. Treasury will be determining the distribution of funds and will be providing that guidance to New York State, which will receive the funds for townships and Villages. The state will dispense them to the respective township which will in turn remit them to Villages. Our share will be based on our population percentage within the township.
One half of the funds will be provided this year and one half 12 months after the legislation is signed. General estimates at this time indicate we may receive approximately $120,000 within the next several months and a similar sum next year.
In budget year 2020-21, the Village of Cooperstown had an $800,000 decrease in revenues – from paid parking, sales tax, chips, and Doubleday Field rentals.
In reviewing the proposed 2021-22 VOC Budget, hopefully you realized that the Village Board did indeed fund an additional full-time police officer. We made this public safety commitment to our community, even though the funds we ultimately will receive from the ARP are only a fraction of the lost revenues due to the pandemic.
As for returning funds to taxpayers, the Village has not increased the property tax levy of $1,779,194 since 2013. Eight years of no increase in the tax levy is our support of Village property owners.