Schenectady County

Rotterdam supervisor’s budget plan draws fire

Thirteen full-time town employees slated to be laid off in Supervisor Frank Del Gallo’s proposed 201
PHOTOGRAPHER:

For the second time in two years, Cindy Dumar’s job is hanging in the balance.

The typist in the Rotterdam Public Works Department is among the 13 full-time town employees slated to be laid off in Supervisor Frank Del Gallo’s proposed 2012 budget. She was also one of two full-time unionized workers targeted in Del Gallo’s preliminary 2011 budget — before the Town Board approved its own spending plan restoring her position.

Dumar was among three workers who filed a union grievance against the supervisor, claiming he arbitrarily shuffled them to different positions within the town in violation of civil service law. Now the head of her union is questioning whether Del Gallo has other motives for the layoffs.

“It looks like it’s targeted,” said Conard Johnson, president of Rotterdam’s CSEA chapter.

Johnson said his union will lose a bookkeeper, typist, and one park attendant. In addition, he said the highway department will shed two, a senior laborer and a senior road maintenance supervisor.

“We’re at our lowest level in every department,” he said Friday. “For him to say it’s cost savings, well where did all the money go? Where’s it being spent?”

Police Chief James Hamilton did not address the reasoning behind Del Gallo’s cuts. He said the supervisor simply told him his plan to cut two detectives when they met briefly two weeks before the budget was released. He was even more dumbfounded by the third investigator slated to lose his job when the spending plan was pitched Monday.

“That’s something only the supervisor can answer,” he said.

Hamilton said halving the six-member detective bureau would have a lasting impact on the department. He said detectives are credited with helping to crack a number of high-profile cases, such as the arson investigation of Steven Raucci, the disgraced former Schenectady City School District facilities director.

“It would certainly have a tremendous impact on the community,” he said.

Del Gallo’s budget also eliminates the annual $10,000 salary for board members and the $13,000 earned by the supervisor. His budget didn’t change the salaries for members of the Zoning Board of Appeals and the Planning Commission, both of which meet less frequently than the town board.

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 2.83 percent. Del Gallo blamed the roughly $800,000 in cuts and layoffs in the budget on marked increases in pension costs in the coming year and the town’s dwindling fund balance — its reserve of money unspent from previous years.

defends plan

Del Gallo defended his budget and denied there’s any ulterior motive for the cuts. He said he tried to trim departments equally throughout the budget so all of them share in the burden.

Del Gallo’s main concerns are the rising cost of benefits for workers and the town’s declining fund balance. Without serious cuts now or a significant tax increase next year, he said the town will face a dire situation within two years.

“If you don’t slow it down and back it up now, you’re going to be broke in 2013,” he said. “We have to get our workforce down where we can live within our means.”

He said reducing the workforce won’t save money in 2012, since the town will ultimately need to fund payouts and unemployment for the laid-off workers, But with a leaner workforce and by allowing the $1.5 million fund balance to grow back to acceptable levels, he said the town could be in good financial shape by 2013.

Yet Del Gallo stressed the tentative nature of his proposal. He challenged board members to go through it and find areas where money could be saved and the jobs restored.

“They have the budget,” he said. “Now show me where to put back without raising taxes and without touching the fund balance.”

Board member Wayne Calder faulted Del Gallo for not consulting the board before compiling a budget that seems untenable. He said Del Gallo’s budget has caused unnecessary turmoil, considering he could have worked with the board to develop a more agreeable budget.

“I’m very unhappy about what’s happened, I can tell you that,” he said. “The supervisor declined any assistance with it, and now we have a lot of work ahead of us.”

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