Colonie Democratic Supervisor Paula Mahan, saddled with an $18 million deficit by her Republican predecessor, could deal with the problem in a number of ways, none of them particularly appealing. The method she’s chosen — a special, one-time tax assessment averaging roughly $250 per residence and business — is probably the best.
The town could ignore the deficit and continue conducting business as usual. That’s basically how it got into trouble in the first place. But the town’s credit rating would suffer, and it would have to pay more to borrow.
A second option would be to borrow the money; but the town would need the state Legislature’s permission for that. To get it would also require a super-majority of the town board, which is 4-3 Democratic. Getting even one of the Republican members to go along might not prove very easy. And borrowing is never a wonderful option, especially for operating expenses; in the long run, it costs a lot more money to service the debt, and makes borrowing for valid capital expenditures more costly. In the current credit crunch on Wall Street, the town needs to borrow as little as possible or face ruinous debt service costs.
A third option — raising the town’s tax rate roughly 25 percent for 10 years — would be equally painful.
Yet another option would be Draconian personnel cuts, but that would not only be unfair to many employees, it would leave the town without essential services.
Mahan inherited a mess — even if long-term landfill expenses aren’t factored into the equation, as Republicans insist they shouldn’t be. According to a recent state comptroller’s audit, it was from years of Republicans spending more than they collected, raiding the landfill fund, using sales tax revenue and borrowing to pay for daily operations.
Mahan wasn’t part of the government that created that mess and she shouldn’t be held accountable for it. The best way for the town to deal with it, and the fairest for her, is to bite the bullet and get it over with.