Schenectady County

Dueling budget proposals heat up Rotterdam hearing

Heated sparring marked Rotterdam’s budget public hearing Thursday.

Heated sparring marked Rotterdam’s budget public hearing Thursday.

Deputy Supervisor Robert Godlewski questioned the legality of a 2012 budget proposed by three board members, which would tap more than $366,000 from special district reserve funds. He accused them of trying to get around the state’s 2 percent tax cap. Board member Nicola DiLeva fired back, asking if Godlewski and Supervisor Frank Del Gallo believed they arbitrarily picked numbers to support their moves.

Del Gallo suggested DiLeva was pulling “a pile of money out the box” to balance the budget without any legal basis.

“I think you should do your wheeling in Las Vegas,” he quipped before abruptly walking out for a moment.

DiLeva fired back, claiming Del Gallo purposely targeted employees for his layoffs and began listing the reasons why, before Godlewski cut her off. He then began questioning why DiLeva ordered a correction to a typo in the budget resolution adopted by the board last week, when Wayne Calder cut in.

“Every time we try to do something here, you try to throw a wrench into it,” he growled.

They quarrelled for nearly an hour before finally opening the public hearing. Only four people spoke: two Republican candidates for office, a former Town Board member and the town’s senior water treatment plant operator.

The squabble among Town Board members drew snide comments and snickers from the roughly four dozen people in the audience. One woman suggested the spectacle was better than reality TV.

“This is better than Bravo,” she muttered.

Del Gallo initially planned to cut 16 town jobs, including 13 through layoffs. But DiLeva, Calder and board member Matt Martin came back with an 11th hour revision that restored all of the cuts and instead relied on some of the more than $2 million existing in special district fund balances.

Godlewski insists there are serious issues in the spending plan and said it will inevitably draw the ire of the state Comptroller’s Office if it’s passed.

“It’s a horrible budget,” he said after the meeting.

Godlewski said Rotterdam already taps $160,000 from the special districts to accommodate for the time employees paid out of the general fund spend working with them. He said neighboring Guilderland only taps about $80,000 from sewer and water districts. “And their districts are much bigger than ours.”

Town Comptroller Anthony Tangarone acknowledged he’d need to see an exact accounting of how the preliminary budget would spend money taken from the special districts. DiLeva said she had all the necessary accounting and would have submitted it had she been asked in advance of the public hearing. The next discussion is set for Monday’s agenda meeting.

Joe Villano, the Republican candidate for Town Board, blasted the revised budget for “stealing” from the special district reserve funds instead of taking an honest look at cuts that should be made.

Brian McGarry, the Republican candidate for supervisor, criticized the spending plan for having a lack of ingenuity. He said restoring the cuts in next year’s budget will “exponentially” increase the town’s fiscal woes by 2013.

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