Supervisory candidates spar at Middletown meeting

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By Joe Moskowitz
The public comment portion of Middletown Town Board meetings often pass quickly because few people from the public usually attend and even fewer have anything to say. 
There was only one person who got up to speak at last Tuesday’s meeting. He spoke loudly and almost everyone else was uncomfortably silent.

Nelson Delameter, the Republican candidate for town supervisor, took the opportunity to criticize his opponent, incumbent Supervisor Marge Miller.
The biggest item on the agenda was the preliminary budget for 2014. It is a spending plan formulated by Miller who has taken on the added duties of budget director.

Delameter accused Miller of catering to special interests as the proposed budget calls for the town increasing its contribution to several organizations, including the community food pantry. Miller pointed out that the budget would be discussed later in the meeting.

Questions raises
Delamater took particular exception with pay raises that Miller was recommending, including a hike of $7,000 for herself. Again, she said the public comment segment was not the appropriate time to discuss the budget, and she accused him of using the forum for his own political purposes.

Then Delamater produced what he says is a document proving that Miller violated rules and illegally altered the town’s sewer extension law, an accusation that has been hanging over Miller’s head for several months. At that point Miller sharply told Delameter she would not allow him to “hijack” the meeting for his own political gain and asked if there were any more public comments. There weren’t, but the subject of the pay raises, particularly Miller’s was going to be discussed at length later in the evening.

Miller’s proposed budget called for a tax hike of 1.8 percent, but was whittled down to 1.5 percent. The town’s surplus would be used to help balance the budget.
Each of the board members agreed that Miller and other town employees deserved raises, but Mike Finberg said it should be more like four or five percent and not 25 percent or in Miller’s case, 70 percent. Brian Sweeney said perhaps three or four thousand for Miller. John Roucek also said a raise was in order, but not that big. 

Miller acknowledged that she is taking a political risk but said, “It is a risk I’m willing to take.” She says the town must take care of its workers and if people aren’t well compensated then no one in the future will want the jobs. She pointed out that supervisors haven’t received significant pay increases in decades. She told board member Jake Rosa that when his father, Alan Rosa, was elected supervisor in 1992, he earned $9,200 a year. Miller now gets $9,994 per year, plus another $10,000 for her role on the county board of supervisors. Rosa agreed the pay is low, but said she knew that when she ran.

In the end, the board agreed to give Miller an increase of $2,500 per year.
There will still be a public hearing and the board will take final action on the budget next month, after the election.