District 3 races focus on county taxes, spending

District 3 candidates for the Schenectady County Legislature on Nov. 8 are all over the board in ide

District 3 candidates for the Schenectady County Legislature on Nov. 8 are all over the board in identifying priority issues affecting their constituents, but they all agreed that high taxes are a problem.

Seeking two seats with four-year terms on the Legislature are Democrat Cathryn Bern-Smith, Republican James Buhrmaster, Democrat Thomas Constantine and Republican Michael Dieterich. Buhrmaster is the only Republican on the Legislature who is seeking re-election; he is seeking a third four-year term.

Two candidates are also seeking to fill an unexpired two-year term in District 3: Democrat Catherine Gatta and Republican Kurt Semon. The seat opened up when Susan Savage, D-Niskayuna, resigned this year to join the administration of Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The seat will be up again in November 2013, this time for four years.

District 3 consists of Niskayuna and Glenville. Legislators receive a stipend of $15,499, plus the option of health insurance. The stipend is higher for leadership positions.

This year, nine seats on the 15-seat board are in play. Democrats control 12 of the 15 seats, Republicans two. The lone Conservative on the board caucuses with the Democrats.

The Daily Gazette asked candidates to identify two major issues facing residents of Schenectady County and how they would address them. They were also asked why residents should vote for them.


Bern-Smith said the two most important issues in her district are economic development/controlling taxes and spending and the Glendale Home.

“It is through economic development that the county can reduce its property tax burden on its residents,” she said.

She attributed the creation of jobs and the injection of investment in the county to efforts undertaken by the county Legislature through the years. “This progress must continue with new and increased job development, particularly in the manufacturing, science and technology sectors,” she said.

Bern-Smith said residents of the county “overwhelmingly support the construction of a new nursing home, as do I. Schenectady County’s involvement in and support of caring for its elderly citizens dates back hundreds of years and this is a tradition we must continue.”

Bern-Smith said the nursing home is part of the continuum of care of services the county provides, as well as a provider of jobs in the community. “Public nursing homes such as Glendale care for patients whose physical and/or cognitive conditions prohibit them from being accepted in many private nursing homes,” she said. “As the county continues its economic development by bringing new jobs to the area, a new Glendale will be an important component in what it can offer to its new residents and their elderly loved-ones.”

Bern-Smith said residents should vote for her because she has “unique qualifications to effectively serve the public in elected office,” including policy level experience in her current position with the state Senate Aging Committee.

“I believe that elected office is a form of public service. I have been serving the public in one capacity or another since I graduated from college,” she said.


Buhrmaster identified taxes and the growing size and cost of government and onerous regulations as key problems in his district.

As a way to trim government and reduce taxes, he advocates consolidation of services. “I feel we need to work more diligently on coordination, then cooperation and then when sensible and cost effective, on consolidation in more areas of our small county,” he said.

He also is calling on the Legislature to eliminate “non-essential and patronage jobs that have become such a part of our expensive system of government.”

Residents should vote for him, he said, because he will bring a common sense approach to the solution of problems. “We have plenty of laws, rules and regulations on the books already. We need to use them and enforce them, not create more. I believe that a government that governs less, governs better,” he said.


High taxes and public safety top Constantine’s list of key issues affecting residents of his district. His solution: “It will be my [biggest priority] to control these costs and provide a safer community where people want to reside and businesses can flourish.”

Constantine said the best way to reduce decay in Schenectady County is to provide people with a safe place to live and work, and to reduce crime and acts of violence.

Constantine said residents should vote for him because he has the “knowledge, skills and the ability to focus on these issues.”


Dieterich said the two most important issues affecting district residents are high taxes and the county’s reputation.

“These two issues can cripple a county and set you into a downward spiral that can take years to break the momentum,” he said. “High taxes make it harder to sell your home, make the people unhappy, steal from the retirement of our residents and force some of our most valued residents from their homes,” he said.

Dieterich said a bad reputation, which he contends Schenectady has, affects economic development and makes it harder to plan future success as a county. “We are losing our most productive people with the means to utilize our restaurants, our locally owned shops, who can call on local contractors to maintain their properties.”

Dieterich said these issues were caused by poor management of the county and a view that “we can throw money at any problem to solve it.”

He would tackle these issues by bringing “good common sense and logical thinking to the table. I am willing to talk with everyone regardless of party affiliation because I truly feel it is about our community and families.”

Dieterich said he also will think outside of the box and talk with other counties to see where they went right and wrong. “I will always try to discern people’s real motivation for why they are lobbying on issues,” he said.

Dieterich said residents should vote for him because he “pursue every path to actually lower the tax bill on home owners, push forward to get a grip on the waste in the social services and Medicaid area, strive to strengthen our reputation by being tough on crime and always work toward a more business friendly environment that can mean more revenue and a better reputation for our county,” he said.


To Gatta, the two most important issues facing residents of her district are businesses’ closing and high taxes. To attract businesses, Gatta said she supports providing them with incentives. “We need to focus on our local retail shops, restaurants, florists, bookstores,” she said.

On the issue of taxes, she said controlling them will not be easy. “But with a lot of hard work and negotiating, we are able to let the citizens of Schenectady County know that we understand the difficult time everyone is having right now,” she said.

Gatta said residents should vote for her because she “works from the heart” and does what she believes is right. “I was brought up with strong moral and work ethics, and it’s those core values that are needed in today’s government,” she said. “I believe that regardless of party, if you’re doing what is in the best interest of the community and not your own agenda, you can’t lose.”


Semon said the two most important issues facing residents of the district are high taxes and a government that is disconnected from the people.

His solution is to “sell Schenectady County” to potential businesses, employers and home developers though “sound county management, conservative taxation, infrastructure maintenance and development, along with partnerships with towns, village, and school districts.”

On the second issue, he said if elected he would help bring balance to the Legislature, which he said he dominated by one party rule. He said this situation “makes deliberation of ideas to address concerns narrow and difficult. I look forward to a balanced county legislature where Republicans and Democrats share ideas to solve Schenectady County’s problems.”

Semon said residents should vote for him because he has a proven track record of listening to people and has a reputation for honestly and loyalty to the people of the community. “I also have a record of results in this and other communities that I have been part of, including as a councilman in a town with full service but no general town tax,” he said.

Categories: Schenectady County

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