Cognitive Dissonance — Part A

The embedded documents below include  a letter from the Chairman of the Board of Supervisors of Montgomery County to Mayor Thane and the Common Council and a letter in response from Mayor Thane.
Let me highlight the salient section from the Supervisor Quackenbush’s letter:

The City, we believe, wants to position itself as a business friendly, attractive place to work and live, yet takes actions portraying the exact opposite message, and it is with this that we ask that you reconsider your increase in water rates and consider the tough choices that you were elected by the people to make and not hinder the future prosperity of this community we all call home.

I’m a bit misty eyed but let me focus on the financial argument here, and importantly, the key lack thereof in a related instance.
First, let’s look at the county’s recent budget impact on tax rates in “this community we all call home”:

Interesting, when the county imposes tax increases at multiples of what the city is proposing, that must not hinder future prosperity at all. After all, I do not see evidence of any letter to the Board unto themselves given the numbers above. I’m apparently missing the economic logic here in how the county is not subject to its very own economic principles.
Second, I’m also not seeing any evidence of any letter to the GASD which is on the verge of passing a tax increase in excess of the county’s and city’s tax rates combined. And why is that?
Because when it comes to being an attractive place to work and live, the school district matters not at all. When folks want to decide where to live and raise a family, you know what they look at: the water infrastructure. They never look at test scores, dropout rates, academic programs, you know, the elitist, effete bullshit– it’s all about water and sewer. That’s how you draw entrepreneurs and families and build a sustainable community — by marketing and selling water.  That’s why the county supervisors blissfully ignore the impact of the GASD from an economic sustainability discussion.
I have to be a bit snarky because otherwise I’d be a raving lunatic from dealing with such nonsensical thinking. I’m really to believe that the only thing that matters in the totality of economic development and prosperity is the tax rate on the city’s water? It’s reasoning such as this that passes for policy and thinking at the county level. Simply shocking. But now you know why our county finds itself where it’s at.
Now my critics will say “But look at the City tax rates, they are so much lower. You’re being unfair.” Oh no, I’m saving my ire for last.
The reason the city county tax increase is so small is through the magic of equalization. You see, what the county supervisors will not tell you is that the reason for the low county tax increases in the city is not from cutting the budget and “making tough choices” at all — the numbers and increase in tax levy disprove that. It’s simply that the assessed value of  the City of Amsterdam in relation to other municipalities has decreased and/or grown at a lower rate. As a result, more of the burden gets shifted outside the city. Or put another way, the city is underperforming the outside areas.
Ironically, this underperformance in assessment gets touted as good stewardship and brilliant policy.
Nice try ; I’ll get to that in my next post…
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2 Responses

  1. Robb says:

    I just crunched some numbers and see the following, but please correct me if I’m wrong.
    Colonie’s police department serves about 91000 people, including the town proper plus the villages of Colonie and Menands (Menands has its own police department, but town police do have jurisdiction in Menands just like you see Glenville cops in Scotia even though Scotia has its own force). With a total budget of $9,000,000, this means each resident pays about $99.00 for the cost of the department and that each police employee receives an average salary of $54,878 when you factor in 109 officers plus 55 ancillary staff.
    Compare that to Amsterdam, and you get ratios of $126.00 per person to run the department and an average employee salary of $58,205 when you factor in 38 cops plus 1 ancillary staffer going from the 2010/11 budget.
    I won’t even get into the numbers for Colonie fire versus Amsterdam fire because, well, the former’s employee salaries total a whopping $0.
    Looks like this is the place for higher-paying jobs after all.
    What I don’t understand is that while virtually every department is or was asked to take hits across the board, including the very likely loss of some positions and the people that fill them, I haven’t heard so much as a thought as to APD or AFD taking any hits, as if it is impossible, unthinkable, and unimaginable.

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