Montgomery County

Montgomery County Legislature unsure about CDTA

This file photo shows a CDTA bus in Albany.
PHOTOGRAPHER:

This file photo shows a CDTA bus in Albany.

FONDA — The Montgomery County Legislature will send a contentious resolution to support bringing Capital District Transportation Authority bus service to the county back to committee for further discussion.

Area officials and organizations have been active this year seeking support from state leaders for a push to bring CDTA services to the region. The public benefit corporation created by the state Legislature has studied the transportation needs of the area and supports extending bus services locally.

CDTA has developed tentative plans to offer a route serving the dense residential areas and employment centers in the city of Amsterdam and Montgomery County. The route would also connect to Schenectady and provide options to transfer to buses reaching Albany.

Although the service would be partially funded through bus fare, the state subsidizes the cost of providing transportation services and state officials would have to approve a $5 million annual allocation to create a local route. The county also would have to provide a share of the backing through a $300,000 annual contribution from mortgage tax collections.

Actual approval of local funding for the service and fine tuning the  details of bus routes would come later in the process. The focus currently is on demonstrating support for the service to encourage the state to consider providing the $5 million share. Local officials have been securing letters of support for the service from area organizations and agencies. Montgomery County Executive Matthew Ossenfort sought a resolution of support from the county Legislature earlier this month that was tabled during the Aug. 3 meeting as officials argued about using county funding for buses that would be centered in Amsterdam.

When the Legislature resumed discussion on Tuesday, Ossenfort indicated that additional information had been shared with legislators and even more details would be forthcoming.

“We’ve been peeling back the onion one layer at a time on this issue and what the impact is going to be from a financial perspective,” Ossenfort said.

One of the sticking points for legislators during the initial discussion was the need to eventually approve the allocation of $300,000 in county mortgage taxes.

District 4 Legislator Robert Headwell, Jr. previously said that shifting funds toward a service centralized in Amsterdam would be unfair to small communities like Charleston that would likely be left off any new bus routes.

District 6 Legislator John Duchessi and District 9 Legislator Robert Purtell at the time argued the entire county would benefit from strengthened connections to the Capital Region and improved transportation to support new and existing businesses.

They went on to say the potential for one community to benefit more than another should not be part of the consideration when Amsterdam and its residents are part of the county and should be supported as such.

Ossenfort on Tuesday noted that the county has been gathering information about the methods other communities use to supply the required mortgage tax levels to CDTA to provide transportation services. Those options include approving a modest increase to the county mortgage tax.

During a previous attempt to bring CDTA to the region in 2019, Ossenfort suggested boosting the 0.75% mortgage tax rate by about 0.5% would be sufficient to fully cover the local funding share without any reallocations.

Ossenfort recommended that legislators send the resolution to support joining CDTA back to the Economic Development and Planning Committee to review the new information.

“We have some of that information, but it’s not complete. I think the best course of action right now is to hold off for tonight,” Ossenfort said.

Chairman Michael Pepe withdrew his sponsorship of the resolution to automatically send the legislation back to the committee for further discussion.

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