Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Recently, these employees received another set of checks totaling over $34,000, which is only half of what they would receive in 2009. The 2009 budget projects some $68,000 to cover such payments reflecting a 33% increase in the code.(Hospital & Med Ins $207,000 in 08 to $275,000.)
With layoffs inevitable in dealing with this deficit, it seems sensible to ask these employees to make some sacrifices instead of asking taxpayers to pay higher taxes for health insurance buyouts, especially to allow such buyouts for people who were never enrolled in the insurance program, stated Ashley.
Ashley noted that the union contract contains provisions which defy public sensibilities and includes managers in the bargaining unit who should be separate and distinct from the employees under their supervision. Because they were included in this bargaining unit, they are eligible to receive these buyouts at a considerable cost to taxpayers. They budgeted buyouts are equivalent to a 6.8% property hike. Also, people were allowed to opt out of the insurance program who were never enrolled in it to begin with. This cost taxpayers money instead of realizing a 50% savings on a previously paid premium.
The lack of management in town hall under Supervisor Evers and this Board is astonishing, stated Ashley. Evers placed himself on the town insurance without eligibility or authority costing taxpayers at least $10,000 in premiums over two years until he was forced off. Yet the town Board members refused to force him to reimburse taxpayers and they refused to force the contractual engineer to reimburse some $20,000 in premiums he improperly received on Evers watch.
“It seems everyone in town hall has their hands in our pockets or is looking the other way at totally improper and unlawful payouts of town money insuring people at public expense.” When the Board is forced to order layoffs in the union ranks, no one should forget the failure of the union to meet the taxpayers halfway by forgoing payouts taxpayers cannot afford.
Monday, June 22, 2009
The town supervisor has helped himself to public funds he was not legally entitled to and he and the town board have done nothing to require repayment of those funds to taxpayers, stated Ashley. Over the past five years, the Supervisor has helped himself to coverage under the town’s health insurance policy which has cost taxpayers $5,000 annually for “single coverage”. While he was finally forced off the policy as a part time ineligible employee, he balked at suggestions he refund two years worth of premiums the town improperly paid on his behalf. “That’s $10,000 that Mr. Evers benefited from improperly which should be applied to deficit reduction, stated Ashley. It’s like robbing a bank and being allowed to keep the money if you don’t do it again.”
Ashley also called on the Town Board to give the Comptroller authority to recover some $20,000 in health insurance premiums paid out to a contractual vendor, Town Engineer Thomas Murley, paid out improperly over the past 5 years after he left the town as an employee in order to contract out his services. Like Mr. Evers, he was removed from continued coverage, but he was allowed to “keep the change”, some $20 grand in taxpayer change which should never been expended on his behalf.
The two improper insurance premium payments total $30,000 in “gifts” which could reduce the projected deficit by approximately 8%. Ashley stated that it’s not like they didn’t know they were taking benefits from the town they were not entitled to. For the town board to do nothing about requiring recovery of the funds is simply irresponsible as fiscal stewards, stated Ashley. The only step the town board took to curb the Supervisor’s spending habits was a passing a resolution requiring that the Comptroller co-sign checks so that the Supervisor could not alone give out town funds as he did to another contractor earlier this year ($38,000) and in December of 2006, (85,000).
Ashley stressed that a deficit of this magnitude will require a reorganization of town hall which will have to include a reduction in staff. The numbers are simply too large to be reached without reduction in staff and that process must begin in July to significantly impact this deficit. Taxpayers cannot afford to pay for this deficit. It must be eased through cuts in spending and recovery of improperly disbursed funds, concluded Ashley.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
North Greenbush Democratic Chairman Dan Ashley is calling for immediate action by the Town Supervisor and Board to cut spending after a report from the Town Comptroller last evening which projected a $250,000 deficit for this year.
“The town board has been repeatedly warned by Democrats that sales tax and mortgage tax revenues would not be realized due to the ongoing economic crisis affecting our State and nation. Yet the Supervisor has refused to make the tough decisions to cut spending in anticipation of what finally was confirmed last evening by the Town Comptroller”, stated Ashley. Sales Tax revenues received from the county are down at least 5% as is the mortgage tax revenue, just as we warned months ago. When projected out for the year, the town’s budget would suffer a $165,000 shortfall if the revenue stream remains at current levels.
Also disclosed by the Comptroller was the existence of a $85,000 deficit from 2008 which has not been erased. Together, the deficits could reach a quarter million dollars equating to a 25% property tax increase next year if no cuts are made now to offset the projections.
The Supervisor must take a great deal of the blame for the reckless efforts to spend money we do not have, stated Ashley. He has personally hired three town employees without the required Town Board approval and did so despite warnings from the Board not to hire them without proper approval. They were a Senior Clerk, and two Secretaries whose combined salaries total about $80,000. Evers also attempted to give himself a $42,000 pay raise this year, voted for a wasteful $40,000 no bid contract to redo the Comprehensive Plan, authorized unlawful insurance buyouts and allowed the contractual town engineer to keep some $20,000 in insurance premiums he improperly received over Evers tenure as Supervisor. All of these actions have further amplified the fiscal crisis we face and cries for a reorganization and streamlining of town government.
From grossly overspent water contracts to irresponsible hiring in town hall, much of this fiscal crisis can be laid at the doorstep of the Supervisor who appears overwhelmed by the responsibilities of his office, stated Ashley. To address this crisis, the Supervisor and Town Board must act, not watch, as the crisis magnifies. Like it or not, reductions in staff must be implemented in Town Hall in order to deal with a deficit of this magnitude. We will run out of money if we do not act to cut spending and be forced into borrowing.
Ashley noted that schools and municipalities around the region have proposed deep cuts in staff because of the economy. Saratoga Springs has proposed deep cuts in its police force and many school districts have proposed painful staff cuts, but not in North Greenbush where money flows like water in the hands of so called “Conservatives”. Ashley stated that if the Board does nothing and the deficit projections are realized, property taxes would have to increase 25%. Further, if next year’s budget is not cut by the same amount, another 25% property tax increase would be needed to fund the shortfall. The math is clear, doing nothing and spending at the budgeted rates equates to a 50% property tax hike in 2010 and our citizens cannot afford it, concluded Ashley.