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Respect toward residents an issue in supervisor race

Respect toward residents an issue in supervisor race

The former president of the Shenendehowa Central School District Board of Education is challengin

The former president of the Shenendehowa Central School District Board of Education is challenging Clifton Park Town Supervisor Philip Barrett in the November election.

Raymond “Bill” Casey, 62, is a retired state administrator and has served on several not-for-profit boards in Clifton Park.

He said he decided to run for the town’s top job because he thinks Clifton Park residents were not receiving the respect and consideration they should be getting from local government leaders.

“There is a tone and a temperament at Town Board meetings that I feel is disrespectful,” Casey said. “I’ve been on the receiving end of that tone.”

Barrett said Casey’s charges are “absolutely ridiculous.”

“Anyone who attends our meetings or watches them [on the town Web site] knows that if you have questions, they will be answered. We address concerns as quickly as possible. If someone comes with a personal or political ax to grind, that’s a different story, but nobody is treated with disrespect.”

Barrett said he receives phone calls and e-mails from town residents nearly every day and he acts quickly to respond to problems and concerns.

Casey said he addressed the board earlier this year asking them to delay a vote on updated ethics regulations.

“The town hadn’t changed its ethics policies in 17 years, but when they were ready to adopt the revisions, they refused to take another two or three weeks to expand changes to include strong rules on campaign contributions,” Casey said.

“I felt there should be a ban on donations from town employees, members of appointed [town] commissions and people and companies that do business with the town.”

He said Barrett told him to calm down.

“I was offended to be told to calm down. They refused to even consider the request,” he said.

Barrett said candidates are required to file lists of contributors with the Saratoga County Board of Elections.

“We list our contributors by name. It’s all transparent,” he said. “We did not account for every possible variable in life in our ethics policies.”

Casey said he has not accepted donations from individuals, developers or companies that have dealings with the town.

Barrett said he thinks all Clifton Park residents and businesses have been well represented during his 10 years in office.

He has proposed a 2010 budget that holds the highway taxes at 15.5 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value and there is no general town tax.

“The town is in good fiscal shape with about $10 million in a rainy day fund and no debt,” Barrett said.

Casey said the $10 million surplus fund is excessive.

“There should be a rainy day fund of $2 million or $3 million to cover unforeseen circumstances, but holding onto $10 million is like someone having a year’s salary in a checking account. It’s too easy to spend without thinking things through,” Casey said.

Barrett said he did consider eliminating the highway tax, but at $30 a year for the average taxpayer, he thought it would be better to keep the money in reserve.

“We know 2010 will be a tough year financially and 2011 probably will be too. We want to be careful not to spend the reserve that we may need later,” he said. “Sales tax revenue is down about 11 percent this year.”

Casey said he’s concerned about the future, too, and he would like to see the town draw up a 10-year plan for development, parks and infrastructure.

“Too often the town is reactive rather than proactive. I think we need a vision to guide us to 2020. We need to set up goals and schedules to give a sense of where we are going,” he said. “A lot of people are concerned that Clifton Park doesn’t have an identity. We don’t want to be known as the commercial strip along Route 146.”

Barrett said open space and park initiatives throughout the town have given residents a number of new recreation opportunities and a recreation survey now being conducted is collecting ideas for the future.

Casey said he has been energized by the campaign and has knocked on about 3,000 doors in his personal campaign this year.

“There are 20 days left in the campaign and I hope to knock on another 2,000 doors in the next three weeks,” he said.

“I think people are looking for a change and I’m excited about the opportunity to serve.”

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