Schenectady County

Rotterdam budget plan cuts 16 jobs, council pay

Supervisor Frank Del Gallo’s tentative 2012 budget would eliminate a total of 16 town positions, hal

Supervisor Frank Del Gallo’s tentative 2012 budget would eliminate a total of 16 town positions, halve the Rotterdam Police Department’s detective division and zero out the salaries of all Town Board members.

The $20.1 million spending plan would still rely on about $800,000 of the town’s reserve funds and increase the tax levy by about 2.83 percent. Del Gallo said the roughly $800,000 he outlined in cuts and layoffs in the budget are a response to marked increases in pension costs in the coming year and aimed at restoring the town’s fund balance — its reserve of money unspent from previous years — to an acceptable level.

“If we don’t [cut the budget] this year, it’s going to be too late,” he said Monday after presenting the budget to board members.

Rotterdam is also facing a large bill for the devastation in Rotterdam Junction following Tropical Storm Irene. Initial estimates suggest the disaster will cost the town more than $300,000.

To make matters even worse, the town is already over budget with three months left in the year. Rotterdam’s general fund expenditures through September exceeded $14 million — more than $147,000 over what was allocated in the 2011 budget.

The tentative budget proposes a total of 13 layoffs. An additional three jobs would be eliminated through retirement.

Proposed for elimination are three of the six detectives with the Rotterdam Police. Under the town’s contract with the police, the eliminated detectives would be demoted to patrolmen, and those patrolmen with the least seniority would be laid off.

Police Chief James Hamilton seemed skeptical about trimming the 42-member force by three positions and worried how the cuts to the detective division would impact the department. But he said he didn’t receive the budget until Monday evening and hadn’t gotten a chance to scrutinize it.

“This is the first I’ve heard of it,” he said about the detective reduction.

Likewise, the 100 members of the Civil Service Employees Association who work for the town would take a significant cut under Del Gallo’s budget. Conard Johnson, the president of Rotterdam’s CSEA chapter, didn’t seem pleased by the plan to reduce his workforce by 13.

“I guess we’re going to have to deal with it,” he said.

The budget zeros out the stipend for the deputy supervisor and salaries for all members of the board, though Del Gallo is permitted to reduce the salaries only for positions that are up for election in November. The supervisor acknowledged he would need to restore the salaries of board members Robert Godlewski and Matt Martin if they protested the cut.

“We could save one job by doing that,” Del Gallo said.

The budget also reduces the salaries of all positions up for election this year by 10 percent. This includes the town clerk and highway superintendent and one of the two justices.

The Rotterdam Senior Center faces a budget reduction of about $80,000. The funding cut would eliminate a number of summer programs and shut down the Brass Rail cafeteria at the center.

Town Board members will now review the budget and decide whether to keep Del Gallo’s cuts or find ways to reverse them. They will have all of October and part of November to mull the budget before adopting it. The board didn’t receive the budget until moments before the meeting. Del Gallo’s presentation was not well received by board members or town officials. The proposal sparked a spate of verbal sparring between Del Gallo and board member Nicola DiLeva.

“I want to know how these positions were cut,” she demanded.

Del Gallo gave a curt response.

“We picked ’em because there’s not enough money to go into next year,” he said. “Study the budget the way it is and show me where you can save money.”

DiLeva and fellow board member Wayne Calder blasted Del Gallo for not signing an agreement allowing the Rotterdam Emergency Medical Services Inc. to bill patients when the town-supported paramedics respond to a call. Collecting advanced life support payments was estimated to give the town in excess of $100,000 per year.

“It’s a year later, we’ve lost a lot of money and I don’t know if we can get any of it back,” Calder said of the payments.

Parks Commission chairman Ron Severson criticized the budget for gutting funding to the town’s parks and recreation funds. He acknowledged the tough economic times, but implored the board to seek alternate means of saving money.

“I know times are tough, but what is gutting that going to do to the quality of life in our town?” he said.

Diane Marco, the Democratic candidate for clerk, questioned Del Gallo as to whether he truly intended to cut the salaries of the Town Board. When Del Gallo said there was no mistake, she kept her remarks succinct.

“What an embarrassment,” she said.

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