Schenectady County

Candidates at Rotterdam forum focus on town budget

One thing was clearly evident during the League of Women Voters candidate forum Tuesday: A lot can c

One thing was clearly evident during the League of Women Voters candidate forum Tuesday: A lot can change in Rotterdam politics over the course of two years.

In 2009, the full slate of Democratic candidates for town offices boycotted the forum after the Rotterdam Republican Committee chairman made disparaging remarks about Frank Del Gallo, then the Democratic nominee for supervisor. Less than half the candidates listed on the ballot showed up for the forum; William Cooke, then chairman of the town Democratic Committee, was among the few from his party to attend.

Fast forward to this year, when nearly all 20 candidates running for office in Rotterdam turned out for the forum. Cooke, who is now running for Town Board on the independent Rotterdam First line, was one of only two candidates to miss the forum. And instead of showing solidarity with Del Gallo, the Democrats have booted him off their line.

The forum was standing-room-only at the Rotterdam Branch of the Schenectady County Library. But with the large number of people running for 10 offices, much of the audience was comprised of the candidates and their families.

This year, Del Gallo made it a mission to attend the forum. Ousted from the Democratic nomination last spring and defeated in the primary last month, the incumbent supervisor is waging an uphill battle to retain his position on the Rotterdam First line.

During his comments to voters, Del Gallo pledged to continue weaning the town budget from tax increases. He said his goal is to raise revenue and reduce costs so that the town budget is no longer dependent on tapping the fund balance or raising property taxes.

“My biggest goal is to get where we don’t use the fund balance and live off of what we have,” he said.

Harry Buffardi, the former Schenectady County sheriff who replaced Del Gallo on the Democratic ticket, touted his past work with an annual spending plan nearly the size of Rotterdam’s budget and overseeing a staff of roughly 200 employees. He suggested ending the practice of fighting General Electric over the company’s property assessment, as a method of promoting business development on the campus.

He voiced his displeasure at Del Gallo’s proposed 2012 budget. “I’m not happy with what I see,” he said, without offering specifics.

Brian McGarry, the Republican and No New Tax Party-endorsed candidate for supervisor, said he would push for a “global tone of fiscal conservatism” throughout Town Hall. He said the coming term will bring many economic challenges that will require clamping down on budgets. “We have some serious decisions to make and one of them is to hold the line on spending,” he said.

Candidates for Town Board also discussed holding the line on spending. Republican candidate Joseph Villano suggested one area might be in securing union contracts that are more equitable to taxpayers. “We’re far too enamored with special interests,” he said, hinting to the influence of the unions.

Incumbent Democrat Wayne Calder doubted the budget is as dire as Del Gallo predicted, when he proposed more than a dozen layoffs. He stressed that the town government is there to serve the people. “We’re not a business,” he said. “We don’t sell tires and we can’t give you four for the price of three.”

Republican candidate Chris Tomaselli pushed for redevelopment projects at the defunct Curry Road Shopping Center and the former Grand Union on Hamburg Street as ways to help the town economically. But he stressed these projects should be ones that leave both properties on the tax books.

“That’s the only way we can reduce the tax burden on residents,” he said,

Mike Viscusi, who appeared at the 2009 forum as the Republican candidate for county legislator, took another turn at it Tuesday as a Democrat for Town Board. If elected, he pledged to bring “honesty and integrity” to Town Hall.

Categories: Uncategorized

Leave a Reply