In a show of unity on an issue that has been divisive in the past, the politically split Glenville Town Board on Wednesday unanimously adopted a revision to the town ethics law, as well as unanimously adopting the 2021 town budget.
A controversial proposal has softened what originally would have restricted town employees — including elected officials — from holding jobs with other governments if it could create a conflict of interest.
The original proposal came from the board’s three Republican Town Board members and was criticized by Democrats, including the two on the Town Board, as an effort to keep people who may have a municipal job in another community from running for political office in Glenville.
In response to criticism from the Democrats and educator and municipal worker unions, the proposal was revised by dropping the idea of a blanket ban — especially on people running for elected office — and instead states that an employee or office holder “shall recuse him/herself from discussing and/or voting on the matter under consideration” when appropriate.
The Republicans raised the issue of possible conflict last year when village of Scotia Superintendent of Public Works Andrew Kohout was a Democratic candidate for Town Board, but could also be seen as targeting current Councilman Michael Godlewski, a Democrat and an attorney with a Schenectady County Attorney’s office. He would be up for re-election in 2021.
Godlewski had criticized the original proposal, but voted for the final law.
“The end result here is really a testament to democracy and the democratic process. It is a fair result,” he said. “This doesn’t target anybody.”
Republican Councilman James Martin, however, called the law “a step in the right direction,” but implied it should have gone further. “You cannot have two masters,” he said.
Town Supervisor Chris Koetzle said the changes were made after receiving a lot of public input. “We achieved the goal,” he said. “We did what we had to do to make the employees and the people of Glenville feel comfortable.”
The board also unanimously adopted the 2021 town budget, which will total about $19.16 million and raise property taxes just under one percent. Despite the revenue losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the plan includes no layoffs, even though overall spending is being trimmed by $278,000 from this year’s budget.
Godlewski and fellow Democrat Michael Aragosa both voted for the budget, even though they voted against the town budgets in 2018 and 2019, when the tax increases were a little higher. In those years, they felt the town should have drawn more from its fund balance rather than increase taxes; next year, the plan is to increase the draw-down from the fund balance from $300,000 to $465,000.
“The budget is a solid road map to help us help the town and help the town residents,”Godlewski said. “We are mindful that these are difficult financial times for everyone.”
Koetzle, who is the town’s budget officer, said it was the most challenging budget he has developed in 12 years in office, and cautioned things could change going into the new year. “We need to be prudent and understand we are going into another year with a fair amount of uncertainty,” he said.
The expected 0.98 percent tax increase will mean an $11 per year increase for a home assessed at $205,000, while homes in the village of Scotia — which is exempted from some town costs — could actually see a small decrease in their taxes.