Amsterdam Taxpayers Revolt!

Governor Cuomo has proposed a 2% cap to control the ever-growing property tax in New York State which has reached intolerable proportions. A recent study by the non-partisan Washington DC based Tax Foundation group revealed that Montgomery County, New York has the 11th highest property tax in the NATION!

On Thursday, April 28, 2011, the Amsterdam Budget Review Committee agreed to a 17% increase in the City water fee, eliminating the 3% cap on utility fees and taxes instituted in 2004 by public referendum. This betrayal by our elected officials is a slap in the face to each an every citizen of this City who voiced their desire to institute the cap.

This violation of the public trust is also illegal without a mandatory referendum because it changes the powers of our elected officials.

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.

We must not accept this breach of trust! As taxpayers we are entitled to representation and clearly we are not getting it!

This does not apply to 5th Ward Alderman Richard Leggiero, who I respect for voting NO to the outrageous budget proposition. He is the only one in touch with his constituency.

Let your opinion be heard! Call and email the members of the Budget Review Committee and voice your opinion. Tell them to go back and make the necessary cuts to bring the water rate back down to the 3% the people agreed to.

I attended the taping of the April 29, 2011 edition of The Show With No Name at the GWIB Coffeehouse on Upper Church Street in Amsterdam where former Corporation Counsel Bob Going, former City Assessor Michael Chiara, former Wells Superintendent of Schools/Amsterdam High School Principal Gavin Murdoch and Mayoral candidate Jim Nicosia discuss the tax situation. In the following clip, the group discusses their disgust with the GASD budget and plans to form a City Taxpayers Association.

There is a plan in the works to file an Article 78 lawsuit against the City of Amsterdam if they go ahead with their attempt to abolish the 3% cap without a mandatory referendum.

This issue is for the public to decide!

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11 thoughts on “Amsterdam Taxpayers Revolt!

  1. Diane Hatzenbuhler

    Jerry,

    I was appalled in reading the paper this morning, that GD is recomending the removal on all three caps on the fees. I knew if they got one thru they would certainly go for the rest……..they sure did not waste any time. At present, the removal is for only the water fees. And yes, there are more cuts they can make to the budget to avoid this, they just chose not to.

    Please keep us posted on the Taxpayers committee. I do want to part take, as this is a slap in the face to the public that voted on this.

    • It is a sad day when you lose trust in the people you elected to represent your interests, who seemingly care less about the value of your vote.

      We have to draw this line in the sand before all of our rights are washed away by a wave of ignorance and self-serving agendas.

  2. Mike Van Allen

    Guys ,
    Great show as always . That said you are all wet on the Golf Course . That course was built in 1939 as a WPA project and gift to the city for Arthur Carter”s ( then Mayor) support of FDR . IT WAS BUILT FOR FREE AND PROVIDED JOBS WHEN WE SORELY NEEDED THEM. In the years that followed the fees were kept very low so the General Public could enjoy the game . This course has probably the lowest fee’s in the Area and is one of finest municipal golf courses in the northeast . It is the farthest thing from an elitist place that you could possibly imagine . I was a member their for over 30 years . I also know from my time working there in the Pro Shop that all the money made years ago was put directly into the General Fund with probably no documentation and with very little being put back into the course itself . Now that it is paying for itself (As it always did) LEAVE IT ALONE ! It is one of the few things in this city that we have left to be proud of ! That includes our Mayor and our city Government that seems to be always in constant state of confusion . To whoever said to privatize it I say privatization is not an answer to every problem . I certainly do not trust private companies any more than I do big government . The true answer is a smart efficient use of both the public and the private sector in situations that apply .
    Keep stirring the pot guys your doing a great job .

    • Mike,
      The majority of Amsterdam’s population can’t afford the fees and the Golf Course is not self sustaining according to this article published in the Gazette March 28, 2010.

      http://www.dailygazette.com/news/2010/mar/28/0329_muni/

      “The golf course needs upgrades for drainage, clubhouse improvements and cart paths that could cost as much as $400,000.”
      “The city has spent roughly $46,000 each year during each of the past two years to accommodate the golf course’s cost of about $660,000, according to the city’s draft budget and the Golf Commission’s budget request.”

      The City had to pull two DPW workers last year from the course because it not afford them.
      The 2009 Golf Course Business report done by the Union College graduates also indicated that it required money from the city each year to sustain.

      I have no problem with a golf course, if it was in fact self sustaining or made a profit, but that is not the case here. Most municipalities have found privatization of city owned courses to be a better answer because the golf course remains and the city gets revenues from water and sewer as well as a percentage of profits.

  3. Diane Hatzenbuhler

    It has been recommended for several years now, that if the Golf Commission hired seasonal workers at the course, instead of employing the DPW workers there would be a sustantial savings. I think they have found that to be true, and it the other DPW workers can be removed there would be more savings. All seasonal help is the way to go at the course

  4. Karl Baia

    I am very disappointed in the Mayor and the council for suggesting that we ignore a 3% tax cap that the people voted on and approved. Both the Mayor and the Council need a wake up call here. They should be representing the people who put them in office. The over taxation of the residents in Amsterdam is forcing people to sell their homes and crushing business and economic development. We can not stand for this.

  5. Robert Purtell

    My struggle here is this: I understand your fight for the tax cap and I respect that, but with that said, is it realistic to have a two or three percent tax cap, when you have increases in expenses every year that easily exceed 3%, ussually the CPI (consumer price index) exceeds that often, employees pay often exceeds 2 0r 3 % even in the private sector. everything in the world is increasing in cost and very rarely does anything only increase 2 or 3 %.
    I can go on and on about what has increased in the past, but I would say it is safe to say that it cost more than 3% every year for everything I buy.
    So the answer is find a way to increase revenue, to stay below the tax cap right? well the world economy is not stable enough to expect increased revenue, nor do we have the room to build homes or factories to increase the tax base.
    So to me ( and I do not live in the city, but often own property in the city) I would say there has to be some middle of the road here, reduce cost where ever you can, limit your expenses and still try to protect the citizens and pick up ther trash, keep the quality of life to a comfortable level and try to keep the taxes increases to a managable level.
    The tax expense we need to reduce is the school tax, 15 % compared to 2 or 3% City increase.

    • If Amsterdam’s goverment wants to change the tax cap, it must be done with a citywide vote. The opinions of the Budget Review Committee do not overide those of the 18,612 other city residents who put the 3% cap in place.

      What happens when Governor Cuomo institutes a 2% property tax cap statewide?

      There has to be a better way of controlling government spending. How do the thousands of other counties in the US manage to keep property taxes lower than ours? Taxing the citizens until it becomes too expensive to live here is counterproductive.

      It is time to reduce the size of local government since they refuse to reduce spending.

      School tax is another problem, but the state has the Star program to help keep that manageable. Although it was reported as a 16.2% increase, the City of Amsterdam’s portion of that burden is 10.8% while the Town of Florida has to pay 22.7%!

      • robert purtell

        Is it the size of government or is it the size of the services we provide, mandated or nonmandated, we have come to expect services and or entitlements. We really need to quantify and qualify the services government provides and wether we want to continue to provide them. Remember if you lower the quality of the nonmandated services it will effect the quality of the persons or employers we want to attract.
        By the way I understand your discomfort in raising or removing the cap, it does appear to “be the law” and I believe it has helped keep City taxes in check, although I feel there should be some sort of relief valve that can be used when needed.

      • The City of Albany’s teachers agreed to a pay freeze so there would be no jobs eliminated and no tax increase this year for Albany taxpayers. Amsterdam’s teachers refused a pay freeze.
        Similarly, Amsterdam’s Budget Review Committee made no concessions to reduce the tax burden.

        It does take hard work and compromise, something we have not yet witnessed.

        My NYS pension has a cap that prevents excessive increases that is controlled by the cost of living figure. Even if the cost of living happens to be greater than the tax cap, the pension does not increase beyond the cap.

  6. Dan Szabo Jr

    I watched the video. Who is the guy doing most of the talking? He ends the video with “I have lots of secrets.” Not a very good impression. Wasn’t sure if these guys were discussing government or a new spin off of the Sopranos. Anyways, transparency in government is a current buzz word, and to hear someone talk about “I have lots of secrets”…..thanks, but no thanks.

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