Saratoga County Losing AirBnB Tax Income. Why?

According to the Times Union, Washington County has reached an agreement with AirBnB on taxing their rentals.

According to the TU, AirBnB has agreements with thirty counties in New York State to provide them with taxes for rentals.

“The company also collects room taxes on behalf of Fulton, Rensselaer and Schenectady counties, locally, but not Saratoga and Albany counties.”

This is just another example of the on-going ineptitude of Saratoga County government.

10 thoughts on “Saratoga County Losing AirBnB Tax Income. Why?”

  1. Spencer Helwig and his apostles have overstayed their welcome in Saratoga County. It is time to recall him, and them, and then press charges of larceny and corruption under the RICO statutes, which compounds the monetary liability by 10X.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I too am not a fan of Saratoga County government. There are other forms of county government that are more efficient and responsive. Having an overwhelming dominance by one political party is never in the long-term public interest. The decision to pursue a time and a half pay increase for employees and management will go down in history as a series of stumbles and tone-deaf actions. Yes it was a confusing time but one that demanded sober and mature leadership which apparently was sadly lacking.

      However, as we seem to get closer to a tar and feather approach for Spencer Hellwig and Marci McNamara, we should find reason to be a little more charitable. Yes, it was a confusing time for all of us. They should admit their mistakes and we should forgive them. No one is perfect and mis steps do occur during difficult times. Ultimately, a group of responsible supervisors resolved the problem.

      Issues such as the Air BnB tax should be addressed by the Board of Supervisors and hopefully will be. We still live in one of the most successful counties in New York State because of the efforts of both county government and the private sector. They must be doing something right. Also, we should appreciate the efforts of individuals such as the late Ken Green who worked with the county to assure us all of an enviable future.

      Chris Mathiesen

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  2. I am watching the mess that is unfolding at the county and wondering “Is this what’s ahead for Saratoga Springs if we vote for charter change in November”. After all the new government proposed for our fair city bears some disturbing resemblance to the county structure that is functioning so badly.
    *the county board hires a county administrator to actually run the county and the guy who has been doing this for 32 years keeps creating one fiasco after another with little oversight
    *the proposed new government for Saratoga Springs would have the 6 ward representatives hire someone to actually run our city. What guarantee is there that they wouldn’t give the job to someone just as incompetent?
    *the Saratoga County Board of of Supervisors is made up of individuals chosen by the each town not by county voters at large. What we see then is a stunning lack of communication between supervisors who seem caught between their town’s interests and the good of the county as a whole.
    *The ward system proposed for Saratoga would have representatives from each neighborhood pitted against each other with little vision of what’s good for the city as a whole
    The county administrator seems to have had little oversight from the disjointed county board resulting in poor county services, squandered tax dollars and now lawsuits. There’s no guarantee that we wouldn’t end up in the same situation if our right to vote for all our city officials as we now do is taken away and replaced with a less representative ward system and an unelected city manager.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. I am not sure why the proposed ward system would be considered less representative. Under the present Commission from of government, no one is serving as our representative. Unlike any other successful American city, Saratoga Springs has no legislative body. And I don’t see a resemblance between Saratoga County government and the proposed upgrade of our City Charter. Spencer Hellwig fills the void left by the lack of an elected county executive. The proposed charter fills that void with an elected Mayor who has both legislative and executive duties. The professional manager and his or her staff only fulfill the administrative duties now being carried out in an uncoordinated fashion by five deputies and the staff persons of five different departments.

      It is long past the time for Saratoga Springs to abandon the commission form of government.

      I seem to be addicted to this blog. I am going to take a break for a while.

      Chris Mathiesen

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      1. The proposed ward system would be less representative because out of the eight (8) people in the room making decisions for and running our city, individuals can only vote for two (2) of them.

        The unelected individuals would be the City Manager (who would run the city) and five of the Ward Representatives (who would vote as a body to pass laws for the city). An individual can only vote for the Mayor (city-wide) and their sole Ward Representative (only in their Ward).

        This new system of governing would significantly diminish and suppress the power of an individual’s vote and increase bureaucratic layers. Right now, individuals can vote for 100% (5/5) of those governing us. With this new system, that percentage goes down to 25% (2/8).

        That is not inventive fiction – those are facts from the proposal.

        This new proposal is not better. It is significantly worse. Please read it at: https://saratogaworks.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/Annotated-2020-Charter-Change-Proposal-1.pdf

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I agree we need to change the form of government. I would choose a Mayor Council form. We certainly do not need a Mayor and City Manager. That would cost more money. I also don’t like the ward idea at all. We are too small a city and would only be able to elect two people.

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      3. Mr. Mathiesen:
        I would say going from the system we have now where all Saratogians can vote for all five of our city officials to one where Saratogians can only vote for two of the eight people who will govern us is less representative.
        Also the mayor in the new charter has few if any executive duties [sec 2.04 of the proposed charter] while getting a hefty pay raise. Our current elected mayor gets $14,500 and is responsible for supervising a number of departments including the rec commission and planning department. The new mayor will have none of those responsiblites while being paid $65,000. He/she won’t even be able to deal directly with city employees without going through the unelected city manager [section 2.08C] So why the all that money for doing less??
        No system is perfect but we seem to be doing pretty well with the elected accountable government we have. I don’t understand the appeal of leaping into the expense and uncertainty of constructing a whole new less representative government in the middle of the current pandemic and economic crisis.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Saratoga Springs currently has an effective form of government that is quite responsive to the citizens of the city. It is also simple. I think the ‘city manager’ position is a problem, just like the County Executive, because he/she is not elected, very expensive, and very difficult to fire.

        I hope everyone votes ‘NO’ to the charter change, which should not be on the ballet again.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. For what it’s worth.

    First, let’s correct a few factual errors. The current county administrator has not been ” … doing this for 32 years …” as has been suggested above.

    He is the fourth county administrator since the title was established by a local law adopted by the Board of Supervisors in 1979. The first two crossed swords with a few influential supervisors and did not last long. Dave Wickerham became the third administrator, plucked from the ranks of county employees, and served for many years until his retirement.

    And while the role and function of the administrator began to tilt away from its original intent during his tenure and there was occasional tension between the administrator and certain departments and personalities (to be expected in any environment), it is impossible to imagine him presiding over or allowing anything like the current debacle.

    And please let’s dispel the notion that the county has any executive other than the Board of Supervisors itself. It does not.

    The county has no charter and functions under General County Law, a law that specifically vests the executive authority with the Board and, indeed, prohibits the transfer of that authority. That is one of the most disturbing things about the current situation: that actions which appear to have been taken by the administrator and a few others were wholly outside their authority. That authority – itself constrained by law – is vested exclusively with the Board of Supervisors. This seems to have escaped both the Board and the administrator.

    It is difficult (impossible?) to dismiss all of this as a ‘mistake’ made wrought by a public health emergency. To do so requires the public to believe that the administrator and the county attorney did not know elected officials (sheriff, county clerk, etc.) can only be awarded a raise during their terms IF the Board of Supervisors adopts a local law specifically authorizing it. Or that only the Board, by resolution, came amend the compensation plan.

    No such actions were taken, nor was the budget amended to pay the 50% increases. Was the money to fall from the sky along with the additional associated dollars need to cover increased FICA and retirement obligations? How is it possible that payroll and the county attorney’s office did not raise red flags or tap the brakes? The attendant violations of the Open Meetings Law identified by the independent investigation recently concluded are insignificant when held up to these other violations of law and procedure.

    The recent report by the E. Stewart Jones law firm seems to affirm all of this and the more detailed previous analysis. The county administrator serves at the pleasure of the board and the director of personnel serves a fixed term under state law. The fixed term is intended in part to buffer the office from undue political influence.

    In light of the report’s findings let’s hope the Board of Supervisors re-asserts its executive authority and makes changes to restore public confidence in its governance.

    City Charter: Can it happen here?

    Now some are arguing that the proposed city form of government on November’s ballot would not be dissimilar to the structure that allowed the Board of Supervisors to effectively transfer its executive authority to a non-elected administrator.

    I suppose anything is possible. If it happens that the city/manager form on the November ballot is adopted and ultimately fails to live up to its billing, I suspect it will be for other reasons.

    Those who had a hand in crafting the proposal and others who are campaigning for its adoption cite its separation of powers. In announcing its August 22 endorsement of the proposal, the City Democratic Committee chair said:

    “We believe that the proposed change in the form of our local government is consistent with our most fundamental democratic ideals, including the separation of executive and legislative powers.”

    Others frequently argue against the commission form because of its lack of checks and balances.

    Indeed, the City Democratic Committee, in its endorsement resolution, wrote that “ … a fundamental principle of democracy is the separation of executive and legislative powers, as this ‘separation of powers’ is, in the words of Federalist Paper number 51, ‘The Structure of the Government [That] Must Furnish the Proper Checks and Balances Between the Different Departments…’

    But I doubt Madison had the city/manager form of government in mind when he wrote Federalist 51.

    Try as I might, I cannot find that separation in the proposed new charter. Where is the executive authority vested?

    In Title 3, current charter specifically names the mayor as the chief executive officer and in Title 2 establishes the City Council as the legislative body. Granted, the mayor is a voting member of the Council and thus her powers are both executive and legislative. But, at least, the current charter gives concise definition to both.

    The proposed charter does not establish an executive officer and severely reduces the role of the mayor. The city manager functions as the “chief administrative officer” and the budget officer of the city and serves at the pleasure of the city council.

    So with no executive authority vested with either the mayor or the city manager, the city council becomes the default executive as well as the legislative body. Not exactly the system of checks and balances Madison was proposing.

    Let’s make sure we understand the proposed charter change and let it rise or fall on merit, not on what it isn’t.

    Lew Benton

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lew, this was a good post. ‘Separation of Powers’ can mean different things. It can mean separation of function, for example, between Executive and Judicial. It can also mean ‘distributing power’, which is more of an esoteric concept.

      At the local, or even unit level as in the military, there are typically dual roles and shared powers that can make the organization more effective and reduce overhead. The Roman Republic’s power was mostly vested in the Senate, where its executives were drawn from or appointed for specific roles. Distributing executive power is one way to provide a check that we seem to be missing in this Country.

      The root of “President” means ‘to preside’. The denotation is ‘to act as an authority’, however, the connotation of someone ‘presiding’ is almost to moderate and provide leadership to a group, like a chairperson. It is certainly not the same as ‘king’, ‘dictator’, ‘supreme leader’, or ‘czar’.

      Our legislative council in Saratoga Springs each have distributed executive authority, which is a form of power separation.

      Please vote ‘No’ for the Charter change.

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