Tax issues are key focus in Roxbury's super race
By Pauline Liu
Do Town of Roxbury residents pay the highest real estate taxes in Delaware County?
That interesting subject was discussed by both candidates running for town supervisor at a meet-the-candidates event, which was held at Roxbury radio station WIOX last Wednesday at 7 p.m. The event, which the radio station billed as a “conversation,” ended weeks of speculation as to whether incumbent Democratic Town Supervisor Tom Hynes and his Republican-Independent challenger Bill Walcutt would agree to debate.
According to Consulting Manager Joe Piasek, the radio station was contacted by interested parties on behalf of the two candidates, who wanted to give them a chance to publicly discuss their platforms. “The reason for the format was to keep it conversational and not confrontational,” said Piasek.
Each candidate took a turn broadcasting live for 15 minutes with Halcott Center resident and sports radio host, Mark Birman, serving as their on-air interviewer.
First up to the microphone was the challenger, Bill Walcutt, who repeatedly raised the issue of taxes. He has claimed that it is his primary reason for running. “Roxbury has the reputation as the highest tax town in Delaware County,” he said emphatically.
“Our taxes are just out of control,” he later added. “We have the distinction and we need to lose that distinction.”
He did not offer any facts to support his claim, instead, he focused on what he claims is local perception.
Walcutt, who is the town’s building inspector and the owner of a septic system installation service, also discussed the need to “hold the line budget” and he suggested that the tentative 2012 budget should be reviewed. “We’re going to have to take a look at the budget and get some fresh eyes on it,” he said. “If we have to bring someone in from outside.”
Hynes, meanwhile, had to wait until his challenger got off the air, before he could have his turn at the issue. He has served as Roxbury supervisor for 28 years. He spoke about the costly flood damage, which has taken a financial toll on the town, which is still awaiting reimbursement from FEMA. “We’ve had some bridge troubles,” he said. “We spent $425,000 cleaning up streams.” He added that an additional $218,000 is being spent to repair Cold Spring Road and will be needed to $250,000 to repair the Shepard Lane Bridge, which is the entrance to Shepard Hills Country Club.
Hynes, who owns the Miller Funeral Home in Roxbury and the Hynes Funeral Home in Margaretville, has previously said that he and the town board have worked to keep taxes down. He waited until he was almost done speaking, before addressing the tax issue, which literally gave him the last word.
“I question that we’ve got the highest tax rate town,” Hynes said. “It’s not a true discussion. I know what the other towns pay. I think to put that out there is wrong.”
The News contacted county officials, who say their offices have not compiled a list to indicate which towns pay the highest taxes. While they say it can be calculated, it will take time, since the 19 towns within the county have different equalization rates. So at this point, it is not possible to prove or disprove either candidate’s claim.
In addition to the supervisor’s race, there are town council races. Democratic incumbents Steve Walker and Ed Reader will face Republican challengers Joe Aulino and Carol Murray on November 8.
Roxbury Highway Superintendent Steve Schuman, Town Clerk Diane Pickett and Tax Collector Joan Moore are running for re-election unopposed.