Thursday, November 19, 2009

Small Change in New Taxford . . . and Unanswered Questions . . .

Lucky New Hartfordians! Their taxes will go up only 46% instead of 54%. New York Mills residents fare much "better." Their NH Town taxes go up "only" 620% instead of 1600%!

Some of the small cuts that were made are illusory . . . "Cutting" 30K for a Town Comptroller position isn't a real "cut" because the position had not been budgeted for in years. "Cutting" 30K for a Town Attorney's salary only will invite more hourly billing. "Cutting" 64K for "seasonal" employees will likely get parlayed into more overtime for regular employees.

Two UNMENTIONED things stick out in this story.

1) There are no apparent cuts to the New Hartford Police Department (except possibly a police vehicle). This is the case even after it was pointed out to the Town Board that the NHPD has committed the equivalent of 1/2 a man-year of police service to Marquee Cinemas in a purely private deal. On information and belief, there are several other deals out there. If NHPD can provide private security, then the NHPD can take a serious cut . . . and the officers can be released to work for the private security firms that would otherwise likely be taking on this work.

2) Ms. Mowat has never explained the up and down tax increase in New York Mills in an understandable way -- neither at the meeting in NYM, nor in the press. In the October 29th OD re the 1600% increase she said,
"The massive hike would be the result of an apparent accounting error made in 2003, New Hartford Budget Director Heather Mowat said Wednesday."

Today she says of the reduction to a 620% increase,
"The change is due to the fact that the state Comptroller’s Office declined to give an opinion on a possible accounting error by the town, Mowat said."

There is obviously a lot here that is not being explained.

The OD has been made aware of the police contract with Marquee, but not reported on it. How much money has the NHPD taken in on these private security details? Where is the money accounted for in the budget? What is the cost of the promised overtime to the taxpayers?

Ms. Mowat brought up (a) an alleged 2003 accounting error to explain a 1600% tax increase, and (b) the lack of a comptroller opinion to explain the decrease to 620%. Neither (a) nor (b) explain anything. As usual (when New Hartford in involved), the Observer-Dispatch glosses over this with no substantive information. What was the nature of the alleged 2003 accounting error that presumably resulted in a tax reduction in the NYM NH-Town tax rate that justifies reversal now? Why does the state comptroller's refusal to issue an opinion cause the proposed tax increase to drop from 1600% to 620%? Reading between the lines, it sounds like Ms. Mowat was trying to get a state opinion that would support a 1600% tax increase in NYM!

Both the press on occasion and Ms. Mowat have pointed out that the Whitestown Town Tax in NYM is significantly higher than NH . . . seemingly to provoke Whitestown NYM residents to get their NH NYM neighbors to shut up. But there is a story there too that is not being covered. Why is the Whitestown tax rate in NYM so high? Is Whitestown charging NYM residents for Whitestown Police, because that would seem to violate the Town Law . . . or are there other expenses that the public doesn't know about. Contrasting how NYM residents are taxed by New Hartford and by Whitestown should reveal a lot about the two towns. Why is there no reporting on this?


Anonymous said...

The simple fact is that there is no OD investigative reporting because the OD does not employ either investigative reporters or editors with that background. The primary reason for this is probably money. They can't afford it. Consequently, the paper is more social and sensational than anything else. It does not serve as a watchdog of governemnt and has not for a long time.Government and quasi government agencies can run amuck without consequence. When, for example, is the last time the EDGE did a project of any consequence? Has it ever accomplished a 200 plus new job attraction? Have we ever read a story of their staff size, salaries, perks, travel expenses, etc.,etc.? That is just one small example of what does not get covered by the so-called newsapaper. It then becomes a very difficult, if not impossible, job for the taxpayer to have a clue about where and to whom tax money is going. That results in the election of sub par, under performing politicians who serve and are supported by vested interest. The area, as a result, marches to steady decline.

Greens and Beans said...

Why would the Town Board not halt their Police Department from setting the precedence of going into direct competition with private sector security firms? Surely they should realize that private security outfits can provide armed security officers with peace officer status. Will this precedence open the door for the Highway Department to now go into completion with the private snow removal contractors? Perhaps they could perform show removal operations in private parking lots and driveways. Perhaps they could pave parking lots and driveways along with installing concrete patios too. Could it open the door for the Parks Department now conduct landscaping for private businesses and homeowners? One would NEVER guess that New Hartford is in a budget crisis when they have the resources to expend on private duty operations. They should be looking to economize town functions by asking if the private sector could possibly go into completion with the various Town Departments to provide savings for the taxpayers. OOPS would that be a reversal by economizing through exploring privatization of public services?

Anonymous said...

The od doesn't need an investigative reporter. All it needs is a publisher/editor that isn't willing to whitewash New Hartford's fiscal disaster. Why hasen't the od reported on the police dept.'s private business dealings? Why the cover up?

Anonymous said...

A seasoned investigative reporter knows how to ask questions, where to look and how to analyze and report what they find. No amount of references to the publisher/ editor conspiracy address the basic problem of reporter competency. If you don't have that for openers, you will not have a "real" newspaper.