Taxes named as top Schenectady County issue

Four candidates seeking two seats in District 4 of the Schenectady County Legislature say high taxes

Four candidates seeking two seats in District 4 of the Schenectady County Legislature say high taxes lead the list of main issues affecting constituents.

Running for office are Republicans Wade Abbott and Stanley Marchinkowski and Democrats Anthony Jasenski and Angelo Santabarbara. Terms last for four years and pay an annual stipend of $15,499, plus the option of health insurance. Leadership positions pay a higher stipend. Jasenski and Santabarbara are seeking re-election.

This year, nine seats on the 15-seat Legislature 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.

District 4 consists of Rotterdam, Princetown and Duanesburg.

WaDe Abbott

Abbott said the most important issues facing residents — government spending and taxation — go hand-in-hand. “Ever since becoming a homeowner, I’ve watched my property taxes trend ever higher. Government must first look at its spending before looking to the taxpayers. That’s especially true now that we have a 2 percent tax cap in place,” he said.

Abbott, who is making his first bid for public office, said if elected he would conduct audits of county departments as a way to determine how best to control government spending. “It also requires asking questions of any proposed spending. Is the spending necessary? Does it benefit our constituents? What are the short- and long-term repercussions? Do the changes increase bureaucracy or do they streamline government? Only with answers to questions like these can we move to open and candid discussion of the issues,” he said.

Abbott also wants to add more transparency to decisions made on county spending and the county budget. “Too many decisions at all levels of government take place behind closed doors. The public needs to see and take part in these discussions,” he said.

Abbott said he wants to obtain “true mandate relief” by engaging state representatives, coordinating efforts with other counties, communicating issues to the media and reaching out directly to constituents. He also supports decreased spending as a way to pass along reductions in taxation to residents of Schenectady County. “That would certainly be a positive development in the county’s economic climate,” he said.

Abbott said residents should vote for him because he is an experienced leader with integrity and “excellent” organizational skills. “I am not afraid to make difficult decisions,” he said. “I believe in respectful debate of the issues, not personal attacks. It’s a cornerstone of my campaign and one I will bring to the Legislature.”

Stanley Marchinkowski

Marchinkowski said the two most important issues facing residents are failure to move forward with consolidation of services and unfunded state mandates. He said consolidation should be a countywide initiative. “Many components, if not all of the consolidation, could take place without fear of the towns, city and village losing their identity and could be accomplished in a relatively short period of time,” he said.

He identified highway, purchasing and central dispatching as three areas that could be consolidated the quickest. “The consolidation of public safety departments will follow as the residents see the initial tax savings,” he said. “I have seen firsthand how consolidation worked for counties that have progressively moved forward.”

Marchinkowski called unfunded mandates “the most critical issue facing not only Schenectady County but every county in New York.” He said the state has placed the burden of paying for mandates, including Medicaid, on counties “with no explanation [of] how to fund them.” At the same time, he said counties are struggling with how to provide basic services to their residents.

Marchinkowski said residents should send “a clear message to the state that they need to work with the counties on these mandates before, one by one, our counties fail.”

Marchinkowski said residents should vote for him because he has the interests of all county residents in mind and because of his experience in and his knowledge of how Schenectady County works, including experience in labor-management.

Anthony Jasenski

To Jasenski, the two biggest issues facing residents are taxes and the Glendale Home. He said New York is one of only two states in the U.S. where the local share of Medicaid is paid directly by county taxpayers. “Medicaid alone will cost county taxpayers $33.95 million next year. Our five largest mandated cost areas will total $111.58 million in 2012, far exceeding the $65.4 million county property tax levy,” he said.

Jasenski said the county Legislature has controlled expenses by reorganizing and streamlining county government programs and services. He advocated consolidation as an additional way to control costs. “Our continuing efforts in the area of shared services present the greatest potential for future savings in the years to come, and these efforts will need to be expanded as we move forward,” he said.

On the issue of Glendale, Jasenski said he supports constructing a new facility, based on two key issues: financial and moral. “It has been demonstrated that the construction of a new facility [on Hetcheltown Road at an estimated cost of $50.5 million] could be built with no direct cost to the county taxpayers,” he said.

Jasenski said the state would cover 100 percent of the principal cost and 85 percent of the interest on bonding costs associated with building a new nursing home through the Medicaid capital component rate paid to the county. He said the county would pay the remaining 15 percent balance on the bond cost by increasing the private pay rate to the market-based rate.

“Efficiencies realized with a new facility and concessions obtained through union negotiations should also have a positive effect on what has become an annual operating deficit,” Jasenski said.

On moral issues, Jasenski said Glendale plays an important role in caring for senior citizens. “Our seniors deserve to age with dignity in the company of family and friends whenever possible, without fear of being uprooted and moved to unfamiliar areas. As such, I believe that the current plan to build should be supported,” he said.

Jasenksi said his experience in public safety and in local government makes him “uniquely qualified to continue to serve in this capacity on the Schenectady County Legislature.”

Angelo Santabarbara

Santabarbara identified jobs and taxes as the two most important issues affecting residents of the district. “Unemployment continues to be a problem in the state,” he said. If re-elected, he said he would work to help small businesses create jobs in the community.

To control taxes, Santabarbara said he would continue to support efforts to streamline county government and that he supports a state takeover of local Medicaid costs.

Santabarbara said residents should support him because he understands the issues facing residents. “I’m committed to helping Schenectady County families and will work with anyone to make that happen. As a Schenectady County legislator, I’ve never voted to raise taxes and have worked hard to provide new jobs for our communities,” he said.

Categories: Schenectady County

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