Using a water tax hike to raise general revenues is a bad idea
As reported in the Nov. 12 Gazette, Cobleskill Mayor Mark Galasso is proposing to raise village water rates by 67 percent while property taxes in the village would decrease by 28 percent.
According to the article, he is doing this so water fund revenues would far exceed water department expenses, and he can then transfer $535,000 in excess water and sewer funds to the general fund to help pay for village services such as police protection, street maintenance, payroll, etc.
The article states that water district revenues can legally be transferred into the general fund. There are some conflicting legal opinions on this matter. For example, a 2009 state comptroller’s audit of the village of Catskill said this: “It is essential that the village board adopt realistic, structurally balanced budgets for all of its operating funds that provide recurring revenues to finance recurring expenditures. The annual budget for each operating fund should provide a reasonable estimate of appropriations, revenues, and other financing sources.”
The report then went on to say, “applying revenues generated by water and sewer usage charges to support general fund operations and programs creates an inequity among village residents.”
In addition to the comptroller’s advice, there are several other flaws in the mayor’s plan. First, residential property taxes are tax deductible for federal and state income tax purposes, whereas water and sewer bills are not.
Second, the intent of the state’s 2 percent property tax cap was to hold the line on tax increases, but if water rates can simply be increased instead, doesn’t that undermine the purpose of the tax cap?
And finally, how will people who are considering purchasing a house in Cobleskill feel about a combined water and sewer bill that approaches $1,800 per year? They may simply choose to look elsewhere, thereby adversely affecting property values in the village.
I suggest that Mayor Galasso and the Board of Trustees consult with the village attorney, the state comptroller’s office and their accounting firm before proceeding any further down the path outlined in the mayor’s proposed budget.
William E. Cherry
The writer is the county treasurer and budget officer.
Cities like Amsterdam need Latino poll workers
On Nov. 6, as I waited in line to vote, I overheard a group of Latinos having a lively discussion about filling [out the] ballot. It was clear that they were confused and wanted assurance that they were correctly filling out the ballot. It was no surprise to me since I, who am fluent in English, was also confused.
So I went over, introduced myself and asked if I could be of assistance. I was told this was their first time voting, and they wanted to make sure their vote would count. So I explained how the ballot was to be filled out and walked them through the process. They left relieved and proud that they had exercised their right to vote.
It is truly unfortunate that in Amsterdam, where 26-plus percent of the population is Latino according to the census data, there are no bilingual, bicultural people working at the polls.
It would behoove both parties to make a concerted effort to get Latinos to work the polls. You cannot keep ignoring the elephant in the living room because we will just keep growing, and soon the sleeping giant will rise.
Political campaigns have grown too costly
I have been waiting to see if anyone would write about the shocking amount of money spent on campaigning for political office. The only mention was in a Nov. 1 letter questioning where the money was coming from — which is another issue.
Why is this so out of hand? The presidential candidates spent a total of almost $1 billion. I wonder what the total would be for every political campaigns throughout our country. It is absolutely disgusting!
Do you know how many people we could feed, here and around the world, too? Do you know how many people suffering from catastrophic storms could be helped out with this money?
This election period went on for weeks. We were inundated with junk mail, phone calls and derogatory TV commercials. I was totally sick of all of it. All we want is to know where candidates stand on policies or how they feel they can better our government for the people.
Maybe I am naïve when it comes to campaigning, but let’s face it: How many average-income people can afford to run for government? It is time we get back to basics when campaigning and not spend millions of dollars to get into office.
Vincent F. Carelli
Likening Hull campaign to Romney’s was perfect
Kudos to Nancy Mitchell for her Nov. 13 letter regarding Mitt Romney and Roger Hull’s similar election campaigns.
I just loved it and could not have said it better. Needless to say, I agree with it wholeheartedly.
Underfunded city cops can only do so much
On Oct. 19, The Gazette printed my letter complaining about the situation in front of Van Corlaer Elementary school on Guilderland Avenue. I was frustrated after being almost hit twice the previous morning at my post as a crossing guard. In my haste, I wrongly put all the blame on the Schenectady Police Department.
I had a lengthy conversation with the sergeant of the Traffic Division and had the chance to do a ride-along. He explained his frustration of having just four officers to patrol many schools, but still managed to give out 51 [tickets] at my school just since September.
Unfortunately, the problem lies with the City Council cutting budgets for more officers.
While the officer gave me a traffic cone to use as a temporary solution, I urge all parents in the Schenectady school district to band together and let our voices be heard to promote traffic safety in all our school zones.
The writer is a school crossing guard.
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