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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Town Financial Blues

The town's financial mess was discussed last night at a nearly two hour meeting of a board appointed committee charged with understanding and recommending action to deal with the $170,000 deficit that threatens the fiscal integrity of the budget.

While it should be clear that a deficit of this magnitude requires immediate cuts in staff and spending, little more than talk seems to have been accomplished at the session which found Lou Cotrona as the most vocal critic of the current fiscal conditions.

You might think of the problem as Rome burning while the emperor fiddled. The town's deficit is so large that hard and deep cuts needed to be made months ago in order to both erase the deficit and prevent it from re-occurring or growing due to revenues being exceeded by expenses. Councilman Spain even expressed this at a town board meeting earlier this year and yet all the action has been talk, most of which occurs at these committee meetings which have little or no attendance by the public. At town board meetings you rarely hear talk about the deficit or how to deal with it.

The tough steps that need to be taken include more layoffs in town hall. The union in town hall has refused to sign a new contract and the talk is they won't agree because the contract would radically cut the outrageous health insurance buyout program that is pouring taxpayer funds into the pockets of folks who are greedily taking advantage of the program and abusing it's intent to save taxpayer dollars. At least two employees, a Fire Marshall who has a full time job in Troy and the Assessor, who is a Department Head and should not even be allowed in the union, are taking buyouts from insurance while receiving full public funded insurance from their employer in Troy or as a State retiree. That's Double Dipping", a newly popular term in town hall, and it costs taxpayers plenty. They, the union want another big payout next month and they are refusing to sign the new contract until they get it, adding to the town's deficit.

It's high time the union gave back and shared the sacrifices. With the State talking furloughs and layoffs to deal with its deficit, North Greenbush employees should read the tea leaves and the Town Board should get tough by announcing immediate layoffs to offset the loss of revenues from another buyout payment. Sadly the Town Board has not acted to cut, not even the job of a full time utilities inspector whose $45,000 job was created to inspect Water 14 still on the payroll.

So the Town Board fiddles for nearly five months while the deficit grows. Talk is cheap and action requires a kind of political courage no one on the board has yet demonstrated.

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