Some Amsterdam residents were undoubtedly happy with Town Board residents Bart Tessiero and Kenneth Krutz last Wednesday for effectively killing Supervisor Tom DiMezza’s proposal to impose a highway tax to balance his $4.1 million budget. As a result, DiMezza will instead have to “nickel and dime” his way to $275,000 worth of cuts. It won’t be surprising if services in the town suffer as corners get cut.
DiMezza says the condition of older Highway Department equipment has been deteriorating while the cost of essentials like snow removal machinery have been rising. If the town continues to starve its Highway Department budget, the money saved from not passing DiMezza’s tax (which would have raised the annual tax bill of a $100,000 home roughly $70) could prove to be a false economy. For example, a four-wheel alignment runs right around that amount, while parts like axles, tires and shock absorbers cost much more.
Then there’s the safety issue: If the roads aren’t properly plowed, or if residents’ cars start failing while they’re driving down the road, accidents could occur.
Amsterdam has no town tax, relying on county sales tax revenue (which took a hit during the recession and haven’t fully recovered), a fire tax and various fees to pay for the few services it offers residents. Admittedly, the town does spend money on some “frills” — like the $10,000 for the Sanford Stud Farm and $18,500 for the city library cited by Tessiero. But they’re an extremely small part of the town’s overall budget, and serve valid purposes.
A new tax would not open the door to wanton spending because it would be restricted to highway department use, something that is clearly justified but increasingly less affordable under the town’s existing financial structure.
At the very least, Tessiero and Krutz should be amenable to the town holding a public hearing on this issue, which is what Wednesday’s vote scuttled. Give the public a chance to weigh in, then decide.