In response to an outpouring of criticism, the Glenville Town Board voted Wednesday night to hold a public hearing in two weeks on a proposal to make the town supervisor position full-time.
But first, the Town Board and Supervisor Chris Koetzle listened to the public express everything from rage and disappointment to hearty support concerning the board’s previous decision to consider the supervisor change without first holding a public hearing.
Residents spoke for 90 minutes before the board took up a single resolution Wednesday night. Their audience included a standing-room-only crowd. Some showed up because of recent letters in The Daily Gazette. Some were there because of news spread on Facebook. Others were there because of a robocall that went out to residents Wednesday urging them to show up at that night’s board meeting.
The most commonly expressed reason for showing up Wednesday was simple: Residents felt as though the board had planned to rush a decision that deserved public input.
“I feel like I’ve learned more about this decision tonight sitting in the audience listening to the public comments than I have in any sort of official or public manner that was endorsed or promoted by the board,” said Kristin Trapini during privilege of the floor.
Koetzle announced last week that the board would vote Wednesday on whether to make the supervisor position a full-time post after the town’s director of operations, Jamie MacFarland, announced he would be retiring by the end of the year. Koetzle, who is currently paid a part-time salary of $19,152, would see his pay increase to $83,000 — the salary MacFarland earns — if the board approved the change.
The news prompted immediate outrage, in particular by the Scotia-Glenville Democratic Committee, who called on the board Tuesday to reject any attempt to change the supervisor position without first receiving public comment and input.
In a news release issued Tuesday evening, the committee said that the board’s proposal to increase Koetzle’s compensation after the election and after the public hearing on the budget would be illegal. They cited Section 27 of New York Town Law, which stipulates that town boards “shall not fix the salaries of the members of the town board at an amount in excess of the amounts respectively specified in the notice of hearing on the preliminary budget.”
The Glenville Town Board held its public hearing on the preliminary 2014 town budget two weeks ago, on Nov. 6. This was the same day MacFarland informed the board — in executive session after the Town Board meeting — of his decision to retire.
There is an exception to this part of town law — and it’s a process the Town Board agreed Wednesday night to follow. The annual salary of an elected officer can be increased for not more than one fiscal year in excess of the figure that is specified at the time of the public hearing on the preliminary budget if it’s done so through Municipal Home Rule Law, which says any law adopted in this manner is subject to a permissive referendum.
So the board on Wednesday passed a resolution that would do just that. It proposed a new chapter of the Glenville Town Code that would make the elective office of the town supervisor a full-time position and set the 2014 salary at $83,000. A public hearing on the issue was scheduled for Dec. 4 at 7:30 p.m. at the Glenville Municipal Center.
“I have never hid the fact that this needs to be a full-time job,” said Koetzle after privilege of the floor was adjourned. “For anyone to say that they did not know this was my intention or the board’s intention, they were not listening to what I said four years ago when I took office.”
Those who spoke out Wednesday said their primary concern was that the board had even considered rushing through a change in the position and its salary without their input first. Many had questions about the technicalities of such a change and what it would mean for the operations of the town when it came to services like parks and seniors.
Still, some spoke out in support of the proposed change, saying that the pace of economic development in town showed that the team in place was working and that only more good could come from expanding Koetzle’s position to full-time.
“I would not want to take a chance of losing our stride,” said David Lindsay, who serves as chairman of the Scotia-Glenville Republican Committee. “The other thing is the voters in the village of Scotia and the town of Glenville have spoken loudly for several elections now. They have voted for this board overwhelmingly and have put their trust in these folks to make the right decisions for the town of Glenville.”
The board also adopted the final 2014 town budget Wednesday after approving amendments that include $500,000 extra in revenue from a recently negotiated deal to sell water to the town of Clifton Park. The $16.3 million spending plan would raise the tax levy 1.4 percent.