Mayor Proposes Two Condoms for the City of Amsterdam

On the agenda for the May 15, 2012, meeting of the City of Amsterdam Common Council are two proposals by Mayor Ann Thane that prophylactically override the tax caps for property tax and utility fees. This is being considered without even the suggestion of a tentative budget proposal from the Controller. It is irresponsible to the taxpaying public to propose a blanket override without even attempting to make the necessary cuts in the budget to reduce the need to raise our already heavily taxed citizens. Here is how Montgomery County stands.

Thane’s proposal to override Governor Cuomo’s 2% tax cap can be found here.

The procedure to override the Governor’s tax cap is spelled out in this Citizen’s Property Tax Cap Guide published by New York State.

Thane’s proposal to amend the Charter Section XVI § C-89 eliminates the current required mandatory referendum to change the 3% utility fee cap already in place can be found here.

One would think that the Mayor learned something from last years public meeting held in the Riverfront Center, where she tried to do this very same thing and was confronted by a horde of angry citizens. That May 16, 2011, meeting was covered in the Grove Street Grumble article The People Speak.

History is definitely going to repeat itself as the people object to this illegal act. New York State  Municipal Home Rule law dictates which local laws can be passed.

Municipal Home Rule Article 2 §11.  Restrictions on the adoption of local laws.

2. Notwithstanding any provision of this chapter, the legislative body of a county, city or village shall not be authorized by this chapter to adopt any local law which:

a.  Amends the charter of the county, city or village, as the case may be, contrary to any provisions of such charter regulating its own amendment. This provision shall not abridge the right of the people of a county, city or village to amend their charter or approve a proposed new charter, where such amendment or proposed new charter is subject to a mandatory referendum.

b.  The legislative body is by provision of the charter prohibited to adopt.

Look at the language of the City Charter Section XVI § C-89 Annual Tax Levy.

A. The amount to be raised by tax on real estate in any fiscal year, in addition to providing for the interest on and the principal of all indebtedness, shall not exceed 1% of the average full valuation of taxable real estate in such year; nor shall the real property tax rate or any user fee in any fiscal year exceed by 3% the rate or fee of the previous fiscal year, exclusive of any amounts appropriated for debt service.

B. If in any fiscal year it is deemed necessary and in the interest of the municipality to increase the percentage rate established, the Common Council with the approval of the Mayor may submit such request for increase as a mandatory referendum to be voted on by the voters at a regular or special election. No new user fee may be established without the prior approval of the electorate pursuant to the above procedure.

We have a Charter that states any increase in the percentage rate will be voted on by mandatory referendum.  A local law cannot supersede that Charter provision. It will take another mandatory referendum to change it. The Mayor and Common Council have no authority to amend the City Charter without referendum.

Please contact the Mayor and Aldermen and tell them we do NOT want to override either tax cap.

Mayor Ann Thane – athane@amsterdamny.gov

1st Ward Alderman Joe Isabel – jmisabel@verizon.net

2nd Ward Alderman Valerie Beekman – vbeekman@amsterdamny.gov

3rd Ward Alderman Gina DeRossi – gderossi@amsterdamny.gov

4th Ward Alderman Dave Dybas – ddybas@amsterdamny.gov

5th Ward Alderman Richard Leggiero –  rleggier@nycap.rr.com

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25 thoughts on “Mayor Proposes Two Condoms for the City of Amsterdam

  1. diane

    Jerry, We are all aware of the current budget’s late arrival, thru no fault of the controller. He has had his hands full since he took office trying to make head or tails out of the mess. The least that our aldermen can do, is spend whatever time it takes for them to go thru the budget and be sure it is the most cost effective for the taxpayer. By passing this now, it is in hopes that the council will just accept was is put forth due to the lateness. That should not even be a consideration. Ron has spent 5 months making sure the city has an accurate budget. The least the council can do is make sure they too do their due diligence and disregard the mayor’s and GD’s request to once again do away with the tax caps. She must learn to live within her means and stop spending every nickle and dime that the city has.

    • Ron Wierzbecki ran on the premise that he was experienced, could do the job and learn the software with no problem. Five months later, he still can not tell us how much the money the City has. Five months of Common Council meetings with “I don’t know” as his only response. Placing blame with his predecessor does not get the job done. Once again no one is held accountable. A prior employee partially responsible for the mess is actually rewarded by being hired part time to help out. By Charter, the Controller was responsible for presenting a tentative budget on or before March 1st. Seventy-four days later and there is still no tentative budget. That is just unacceptable, but does not justify the Mayor’s recent egregious action of blindly proposing blanket overrides of the cap.

      The taxpaying citizens of Amsterdm are apparently the lowest of priorities for this power-hungry, control freak of a Mayor we are stuck with for the next 3 years, 5 months and 18 days.

      • diane

        Jerry, One can be experienced as hell, but when the books and such were as screwed up as ours, it takes time to figure it all out. In addition all the computer info was lost at one point and had to be reentered. I understand the frustration of not having everything in place, but I would be happier to start with a correct budget, with accurate numbers then what has gone on in the past four years. Last year before it was all over, they were just plugging numbers in to fill the gaps and no one knew where they came from. Sometimes you have to let one thing slide to come out with the best in the end. Once things are in place after this budget session, there should be no more mistakes. By the way, going forward, as a taxpayer I feel 110% better than in previous years. And Ron has stated publicly that we do have around 700,000.00 in fund balance. All the accounts are positive except the transportation budget which is in the negative. (I do not remember what he quoted) Also the AUD is done and that was what Heather kept
        saying was Ann Phelps’s responsibility. The fact that Heather rarely put any effort into her job, was the problem in the office. She spend more time out of the office than in; then in the last 6 months was rarely if ever in………I put the blame where it lies on Heather and her incompetence.

  2. Don

    Perhaps while they are amending the charter, they could add a provision; the ability to “recall” elected officials. The majority of states have this, why not us? Just sayin…

  3. diane

    Jerry, In light of Micheal Chiara’s comments this morning on Sam and Mike, I would hope that this is pulled. Mike the original author of the cap referendum wrote it in such a way, that if it is to be changed, it must also be done by referendum. Of course GD will say it was illegal to begin with, since he had nothing to do with its origins.

  4. diane

    Nothing was brought up tonight other than for Chet’s quick comments about the last public hearing on the subject last year. The public hearing with be the 1st Tuesday in June and I hope that there is a large turnout.

    • I watched the meeting on TV. The proposed local law and charter amendment were not read into the record (I imagine this was to prevent public reaction) but they were introduced for discussion at te next meeting. From the meeting I learned that electronic versions of the budget would be sent to the Aldermen. The same electronic record should be available to the general public through FOIL, according to current freedom of information law. This should be provided at minimal or no expense.

  5. I know nothing about the finances of the city, but do know one thing…that if an entity does not have an accurate budget, it cannot survive. The city must get their finances in order and have an accurate count, and if it has been allowed to run without being held into account for a while, it will take time to get everything in order. I don’t know who is wrong in this matter or who is right, but a “house” must be put in order in order for things to go smoothly. It would be great if this could happen instantaneously, but I don’t know what Ron is dealing with, nor how long the cities books have been overlooked. That is important to know, before judgement of any sort are made.

    • The elected Controller is responsible for this information and the time limits set by charter. If there was a problem with any of this, it was his responsibility to hire the necessary personnel to get it done by the deadlines imposed. The City budget was supposed to be presented to the public by now, voted on and finalized by June 1st. We still do not have a tentative budget from the Controller.

  6. Then that should be done.

    • The Mayor as Chsirman of the Budget Review Committee also shares responsibility for the late budget. It is the Mayor’s responsibility to ensure that deadlines are met and provide any necessary assistance to accomplish the task.

      The problem with an elected Controller is the the Mayor and Common Council have no authority to discipline or remove the Controller from his job.

  7. Who elected him? Didn’t the people ?

  8. diane

    Jerry, I don’t think there is anyone who knows more about this mess then the controller, Ron W. He has put in way too many late nights getting things in order first getting the AUD done, which was filed and accepted last week. He is now making a couple of last minute tweeks to the budget and it should be available today. The controller has hired one additional p/t person to help with the mess left by Heather. Le..t’s face it, she never knew what she was doing and nothing seemed to balance after Mike C left since he was helping her. We now have an individual that is more than qualified, has stepped up to the plate and is finally bringing things to a conclusion to more forward. That is the important part to me, that he has an accurate budget with correct numbers, something we have not seen in several years. His integrity is at stake here and the voters trusted him enough to elect him. And he has kept the state and the council apprised of all he is doing and the prospects of when things would be ready. Something to remember too, with the controller independently elected, he will not be influenced or pushed around by the mayor or council; he will do his job period. This has been a totally unusual six months and I do not expect to see it again in the next four years. You can however continue to see DD go after him repeatedly since their has been some personal animosity there for many years. The public is also getting to see how DD acts for the first time, since the whole time he was in the county it was not televised. Let us just say he does not play well in the sandbox.

    • Diane, Michael Chiara was the Assessor, not the Controller. I don’t think his experience is in accounting. You also mentioned his name as having something to do with the charter amendment that the Mayor is trying to do away with, again he was not a member of the City legislature and had no power to introduce or vote on legislation.

      As far has having an accurate budget with correct numbers, that remains to be seen. We still do not have the numbers. So far his performance is not impressive. I would say that of any person elected to that position that did not or could not present any viable budget figures to the Common Council in five months time. Whatever Heather did or didn’t do aside from a state report due in November, has not been determined. I believe the learning curve for Wierzbecki is a bit larger than he expected. It still took him five months to file the report that Heather didn’t do.

      I do hope you are correct about Wierzbecki and an accurate tentative budget with correct numbers. I hope he keeps his stubborn streak and continues to stand up to the Council and Mayor when it comes to City finances, that is his job and they can’t fire him!

      • diane

        Jerry, During the mayor’s first two years it was Michael that found some errors in the budget. Michael knows budgets inside and out and was the one bailing Heather out on several occasions. What can I say, but he knows numbers.

        As for the issue on the tax cap referendum, that was presented to the charter commission at the time, and Michael was a member of it. However it came to be is really, no big deal, because it did pass the council and was put on the ballot and passed.

        • It looks like the Controller’s proposed budget is not only late, the numbers are also inaccurate. This according to Dan Weaver’s blog – The Mayor’s Voice, I mean the Mohawk Valley Independent.

  9. Plain English (of which the Liberal Class is having a hard time figuring out) is that IF any tax cap is lifted in Amsterdam, New York the senior homeowner/fixed income will be driven out of house and home. Gerald DeCusatis needs to be fired. Simple as that. You can fired your own attorney when the situation warrants, can you not? You’ve got a Mayor who had no clue 4 1/2 years ago what a tax cap was, remember that? Nothing has changed. The Puppet Master still rules.

  10. diane

    It is funny how this administration likes the charter when it is in their favor, or the public officers law when it is.

  11. Don

    Can the common council return the corporation council back into a part time job as it always was before Joe Emmanuel made the change?? How would they do it? How many votes would it take?

    • A key point here is that the Corporation Council’s salary is set by the Common Council. Since they disapproved his appointment, there is no reason for them to approve his salary.

  12. diane

    Don, according to the charter, it is still a part time position. GD is a part time counsel. He needs to be only a corp counsel instead of running the city. When Bob Going was full time counsel he was in city hall. GD has refused and continues to refuse to move to city hall so he can keep his outside clients. He started out making the same as the full time counsel and that was a mistake; they should have compared the previous part timers salaries before agreeing to his contract. He is costing the city thousands in insurance for his family and office expenses. The way things are they even have him under the NY retirement reporting. A part time cc is there to advise the mayor and aldermen on business. Nothing more.

  13. Don

    Perhaps then the council should consider bringing the rate back to the 35K area with no health benefits..if he agree’s to stay on ..no problem..if not let’s get someone else. This problem BTW is NOT mayor Thanes fault ( although she is perpetuating it)..this is the result of electing Emanuel as a part time mayor which then necessitated a full time corporation council to then execute the mayor’s duties.It’s time to step up to the plate both mayor and cc and reign in this mess..admit it was/is a mistake and move on/forward. Oh and in defense of G D we already have a 40 year water deal with the county, a four year FREEZE on layoffs and a pending sweetheart deal for 35 years with highland gardens.I really think he has done enough for us..don’t you??

  14. diane

    Don, could not agree more with the last three lines. In these difficult economic times you do not hand out 2% pay raises with no layoff clauses, unless you want their vote. This was clearly a political move on the part of the mayor and GD making sure it came in just ahead of the election. As for the 40 year water deal, I compare it to the 10 year TWC deal, also a big mistake.

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