By EAST AURORA EDITOR (5/13/2010 11:00:25 AM)
Prior to her new stint as Town of Aurora Board member, Sue Friess almost single-handidly was responsible for proposing, lobbying for, and getting passage of a massive swing in police costs from village taxpayers to town taxpayers. The resulting new burden on Town outside of the village taxpayers has been an additional $330,000 in costs for police services. It will go up again this year as the agreement with the village calls for the town to take on 53% of the police costs.
During Friess' lobbying efforts she championed and convinced a very detached town board who was a very inactive participant in the resulting police agreement with the village which drove up costs, that all members of the town receive the same benefit of having a police force and every household in the town no matter how far you live from village center should pay the same.
As a village resident it is doubtful that Friess was concerned about how the town was going to handle this huge increase, but now that she is a member of the Town Board and represents the town outside of the village she will need to help correct the mess that the town finds itself in now having to make up a $110,000 shortfall in the town outside of the village budget.
The past board has been taking money from the "Fund balance" which is sort of a required balance in that budget area to help account for increases without having to dump the entire burden on the taxpayer. Last year the town did dump the entire burden on the taxpayer with an over 100% increase in that budget because the fund balance was so low. Unless the town can figure out a way to cut some money from the budget they will need to bill the town in the way of taxes another $110,000 dollars.
New Supervisor Jolene Jeffe criticized the past board and past Supervisor Dwight Krieger for not proactively looking for ways to manage costs. She was aware of the $110,000 during the campaign and now she along with the help of the entire board needs to back up what she said during the campaign and find ways to cut that much from other areas of the budget. The question for now is what has been done to date to "proactively" address the budget troubles?
Councilwoman Friess' silence on the issue of police cost increases to the town which she championed was deafening. In her position she has to now clean up the mess which was the result of her successful campaign to move the costs from the village to the town. Supervisor Jeffe talked about cutting costs, lets see what she does now that she is in office and is looking at this this issue from the Supervisor's chair.
Perhaps Councilman Jeffrey Harris is most responsible for this mess as he was on the board for everyone of the budget approvals which approved taking money from the slush fund which lead to this crisis. He should be an active participant in finding ways to cut the budget.
This is one of those times I wish I was on the board. Here is what I would bring to the first budget meeting as my suggestions for discussion.
1) Cut the overall town staff salary and benefits by 10%.
Companies all over America, including civil service type companies are cutting staff, slashing salaries and cutting benefits. Why should a town government be any different? This alone would probably more than make up for the gap caused by the police contract. Hey, I'm sure that the staff does a great job, but when times are tough you need to make tough decisions. All other companies do it.
2) Cut the board member salaries by 50% and remove their benefits.
Board members for towns and villages are part time and should be considered part of ones civic duty just as those who volunteer for youth sports and other community organizations. Those folks aren't paid a nickle and receive no benefits. In these times the town board should take the lead and do the same. Again, times are tough. I'm am sure the board earns their paycheck. I also am sure that those volunteer folks also would love to get paid the money that the board gets.
3) Look to the village to consolidate the management of services
Merging the village DPW and the Town Highway department is the most obvious area of consolidation and would allow the town to collect money from the village if they took over the DPW to help defray costs. However I am certain they can come up with other places where we are paying two or more people to do similar jobs.
4) If all of this fails, I would go to the meeting with a big sheet of paper with "50%" written in big red letters.
An MIT graduate recently published his thesis which stated that most municipal governments could cut 50% from their budget without the community noticing the loss of services. Former East Aurora mayor Clark Crook was right when he said that governments by their very nature spend money. That's what they do and the more government you have the more money you spend. Cutting 50% from the budget (or at least making that the goal) would at least be a major attempt to find every last place to cut.
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Karen Sciberti ...(5/16/2010 1:28:34 PM)
Its the self serving nature of politicians. There are some I am sure who are not, but I truly believe that they are the exception. These people aren't looking out for the people they represent, they are looking out for themsleves and they give those concerned about the entire community a bad name.
Stop Doing Things ...(5/16/2010 10:19:15 AM)
I'm sure Ms. Freiss was trying to move the costs from the village to the town because she lives in the village. She also is in favor of home value reassessment because she is one of the rich people who lives in the new homes up around Nye Hill and those homes are values at almost full market value. Hey, THEY'RE NEW!! and you knew that when you bought it. I'm sick and tired of folks like Friess and Pat Shea whose every decision and agenda is based on their own personal needs instead of what is good for the community.