Supervisors pass tax cap override and salary increases
By Trish Adams
At its November 14 meeting, the Delaware County Board of Supervisors presented its tentative 2013 budget, passed an override of the state mandated two percent cap on tax increases, and gave 16 employees each a $1,000 per annum salary increase.
Before the votes, however, the supervisors heard objections from several citizens on these issues at public hearings. Kevin Wilson of Harpersfield, who used to cover the board as a journalist a couple of decades ago, said the supervisors had “lost sight of how this organization should be run. There are ways to cut the budget, this is not the way to go.”
Marian Dent, a local landlord and realtor, bemoaned the fate of her tenants, most of whom are “families struggling. If we raise the taxes, I have to raise the rent. It makes for more hardship for everyone in Delaware County.”
Wilson also objected to the $1,000 salary increases for the employees who have seen no increases for a few years. “That’s silly reasoning, most people in Delaware County have not been getting raises,” he said, adding, “We’re getting ourselves into a terrible mess.”
Some supervisors later rose to the defense of the employees receiving the COLA increases, claiming that they often make less than their private sector counterparts, and had gone for several years with flat incomes. Supervisor McCarthy of Sidney deferred, claiming that many people make more in the public sector, especially considering benefits. Most of the salary increases passed unanimously, with a smattering of “nay” votes, mostly from Supervisor McCarthy, with a few from Supervisors Wayne Marshfield (Hamden) and Marty Donnelly (Andes).
The two percent tax cap override passed handily with little discussion. With the board already struggling with a tentative 4.4 percent budget increase, the supervisors realized they have to struggle to cut more, but the two percent horizon is diminishing rapidly.
Supervisors also heard from Director of Emergency Services, Richard Bell, about the deployment of Delaware County DPW employees to help people downstate (mostly in Long Island and New Jersey) who were devastated by Hurricane Sandy. “Many of these fire departments [downstate] have come to our assistance many times before,” noted Bell. Both Bell and Wayne Reynolds, director of Solid Waste Management, expressed their relief and gratitude that they could finally return some of the many hours of manpower and rescue expertise that these communities had offered upstate counties after Hurricanes Irene and Lee.
Calling all crews
Because Richard Bell is the Regional Fire Administrator for the NYS Fire Mobilization Plan, he explained that he was authorized to “take fire assets from this area and deploy them anywhere in the state.” Of all the departments he asked, “45 percent of them came through with something.” All told, firemen and equipment from Stamford, Delhi, Sidney, Franklin, Arkville and Hancock went down to help with everything from debris removal to de-watering households to chainsaw work. Margaretville and Hobart were ready to deploy but were called down before they left.
Wayne Reynolds noted that local DEP crews were also deployed and noted how often the “upstaters” were recognized by second homeowners, particularly in Long Island. “It was great working with the DEP, everything was very well planned, we had reports every day [of the work plan and what was accomplished”, adding, “It worked out really well.” Board Chairman James Eisel seconded that emotion, saying “With all the help we got on Irene and Lee from downstate, we really felt we had to do something.”
Reynolds also related a dramatic and unexpected rescue that happened downstate on November 8, when one of our local crews had gone out to eat. Suddenly a busboy — in flames — burst from the kitchen, and fireman Trevor Moody of Walton wrestled him to the ground and stifled the flames.
Three people were seriously injured in the fire, which started because gas was being stored in the basement in a food container, which employees mistook for something less dangerous. “Thanks to the quick work of our firemen, they’re all going to make it,” said Reynolds.
The board also got good news of a Community Block Grant, which will help five upstate counties hit worst by Hurricane Irene. The grant, from the federal government’s Housing and Urban Development, will “make the match” that is required at the state and local level for FEMA funds. So, since New York State was on the hook for those matching funds, the federal government will wind up coughing up most of (its own) match, sparing NYS or local governments from having to come up with those millions.
If you want to read more about the budget challenges facing Delaware County this year, read the related story on the budget in this issue. There will be a hearing on the tentative budget on Wednesday, Nov. 28, at 12 p.m., before the regular supervisor meeting to take up the budget discussion in earnest.