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County asks state to impose a “stay” tax

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By JEANETTE WOLFBERG

HUDSON–The County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution asking the state to pass specific bills allowing the county to impose taxes of up to 4% for stays in hotels, motels, and short-term rentals (STR) at their meeting May 8. These taxes, says the resolution, will bring the county “revenue to support” travel, tourism, and “services that are used by county residents and non-residents alike.” They would apply to the county outside of the City of Hudson, which has its own occupancy tax. In April the board passed a resolution requesting the state to “enact legislation” to allow the county to impose the occupancy tax. The May resolution requests that the legislature pass specific bills that state Senator Michelle Hinchey (D-41st) and Assemblymember Didi Barrett (D-106th) introduced to authorize the county to impose the tax.

The meeting began with a presentation by Samantha White, account executive for Granicus. Granicus’ company website says that it “connects people and government with a unified experience that integrates website, online services, digital communication, and more.” This includes helping governments collect, process, and enforce compliance of the occupancy tax, Ms. White affirmed.

For example, she said, Granicus can send out dunning letters “as frequently as you want,” on stationery that looks like it is coming from the town.

But, asked a supervisor, what is the “advantage” of Granicus rather than the town sending out these letters?

“You want something systematized and centralized,” Ms. White responded.

Another Granicus service, she continued, is a 24/7 hotline, where anybody can report issues like a loud party at night in a neighboring home used for Airbnb.

Some concerns raised by supervisors included renters coming to a place without knowing that it is not compliant with tax laws, and sometimes taking years to collect non-compliant taxes. When asked if she had compliance figures, Ms. White said she would have to look them up for the specific area, but “we have places that are 90% compliant.”

Other matters that received attention at the May 8 meeting include: sober living housing, emergency medical services, firefighters, and the Board of Elections.

The board authorized its chairman to contract with Oxford House to establish “sober living housing in Columbia County,” using up to $90,000 from Opioid Settlement funds.

Oxford House is an international nonprofit network of drug-free houses for people recovering from substance abuse. It rents single-family houses in “good neighborhoods” for 6 to 15 people, who divide household chores and expenses among themselves. Some are for men, some for women, some accept children with a parent. There is no pressure on anyone in good standing to leave. The average stay is a little more than a year but many residents stay three or more years, says CT.gov.

There are about 3,000 Oxford Houses worldwide, including in Orange County, Albany, and Schenectady.

County Director of Human Services Dan Almasi has suggested establishing Oxford Houses for people when they get out of detoxification and rehabilitation. Columbia and Greene counties have houses for people in detoxification and recovery, but needed is affordable housing for people who have just completed recovery, away from their original environment.

Oxford Houses are “cost effective” ways to keep people away from circumstances that trigger relapses, Executive Director of the Columbia Greene Addiction Coalition Hannah Calhoun said last year.

Another thing the board urged the state Legislature to support is a series of bills related to Emergency Medical Service (EMS), and in some cases also volunteer firefighters. The measures affecting both ambulance workers and firefighters would allow them to claim state income tax credits and local property tax credits and to increase their personal income tax credit.

The other measures would: “allow special taxing districts to be created to fund EMS;” remove EMS from the real property tax cap; authorize Medicaid reimbursement for EMS agencies both for providing Treatment in Place and for providing transportation to another provider; “create a methodology for ambulance reimbursement under Medicaid;” and require the Thruway Authority to exempt EMS from paying “tolls while transporting patients on the NY State Thruway” (as is done for fire vehicles on emergency mission).

The bills would help correct a “fundamental misconception” that fails to recognize EMS as as critical as police and firefighting, and results in “EMS providers” being “undervalued and under-respected,” the resolution supporting the measures states. EMS “provides a wide range of pre-hospital medical care to sick or injured people,” and “the difference between a municipality that provides for EMS and one that does not can often make the difference between life and death.”

For the County Board of Elections, the supervisors appointed Mara Hoe Estribou as full-time Democratic Election Commissioner, through December 31. She replaces Erin Stamper. Supervisor Tistrya Houghtling (New Lebanon) congratulated Ms. Estribou.

The board also appointed:

•Joshua Cohen of Hudson to the County Climate Smart Community Task Force

•Alexander Jennings of Stockport to the Environmental Management Council for up to two years.

In addition, the supervisors also authorized the following purchases:

•Equipment necessary for installing Internet service in the County jail, by the sheriff, for up to $15,178.58. The first major use will be “to improve the processing and collection of data related to incarcerated individuals” for Medication Assisted Treatment

•CPR/AED training equipment, by the sheriff, for $6,359.85. The Sheriff’s Office conducts CPR/AED training for “all of its employees” annually

•A used 2020 Excavator, by the Director of Highways, for up to $213,678.94.

In all, the board passed 33 resolutions.

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