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Orangetown Councilmen Suggest Selling Sewer Dept, Eliminating Tax Receiver Position

Orangetown Councilmen Tom Diviny and Paul Valentine offered suggestions to lower the 2013 town budget as residents continue to line up to call for Broadacres Golf Course to be kept open.

Orangetown Supervisor Andy Stewart's proposed budget for 2013 calls for a 9.19% increase, but he has called that a work in progress.

The other members of the Orangetown town board offered their own ideas for the upcoming year and beyond at Tuesday's town board meeting, including the idea of selling the town's sewer department and eliminating the position of Orangetown Receiver of Taxes in 2014.

"These ideas are food for thought," Councilman Paul Valentine said. "They are some ideas we'd like to consider going after, especially the bigger ideas of possibly selling the sewer department and eliminating the receiver of taxes. 

"A 9.19 percent increase is a lot for town residents. Everybody is feeling the pinch. We're trying to keep it affordable. Andy worked hard getting it down to 9.19, but we have to get it below."

"I'm impressed," Stewart said. "It's great to hear so many good ideas flowing. We definitely have to do our homework on a number of these. We can't turn a big ship on a dime. We have to plan several years out."

Stewart began the budget discussion by calling for the board to set a public hearing regarding exceeding the state-mandated two percent tax cap for Oct. 23. The council voted unanimously to set the hearing. The town board would have to vote to modify town law to allow a budget exceeding the cap to be passed. A similar measure was defeated during the 2012 budget process.

Stewart said it would be a miracle for the 2013 budget to come in under the cap.

"The final budget is due Nov. 7, with the state deadline Nov. 20. I think it is likely the town will want to adopt a budget that exceeds the two percent tax cap," Stewart said. "What seems to make the most sense is to set the time schedule now so we don't end up with things piled on top of each other at the end of the budget process."

All Tuesday's vote did was set the hearing. Even would approve a measure giving itself the ability to exceed the cap, the final decision would not be made until the 2013 budget is adopted. 

"With 9.19%, it appears we're probably going to have to (go over the cap0), but we're still working on getting the budget down lower."

Budget Proposals, Cuts

 Diviny and Valentine read from a list of ideas put together by the rest of the council. At the top was the idea of selling the Orangetown Department of Environmental Management and Engineering (DEME, also known as the sewer department) to the Rockland County Sewer District. Diviny said he discussed this option with members of the Rockland County Legislature and found that there is interest. 

They also raised the possibility of getting rid of the office of Receiver of Taxes currently held by Bob Simon, moving those duties to the town clerk's office. This would have to go to a public vote and the idea would be to put it on the ballot in 2014.

Regarding the Orangetown Police Department, Diviny said the town should not buy any new police cars in 2013 and should cut all training not required for certifications, but the budget would call for 83 police officers to ensure the department does not drop below 80 during 2013. Diviny said the potential cuts in services and rise in response times if the number of officers dropped below 80 was unacceptable.

"We need the police on the street, at least 80 officers," Diviny said. 

Among other suggestions were:

  • Eliminating the use of town cars for employees unless contractually obligations require them.
  • Add a $10 fee at the Orangetown Highway Department's drop-off center rather than cut the program.
  • Reduce conferences and classes for other town departments
  • Eliminate one court constable in the Orangetown Justice Court.
  • Consider one-week furloughs for town employees to help avoid layoffs.

Broadacres Debate Continues

Residents continued to speak against Stewart's proposal to close Broadacres Golf Course as part of the 2013 budget. The primary argument raised Tuesday was that Broadacres is one of the few recreational activities geared toward Orangetown's seniors. 

"(The possible closing) is very upsetting to myself and to my fellow golfers," said May Krieder of Pearl River. "We're mostly retired seniors who have given an awful lot to this town.

"The only real adult or senior recreational facility we have is Broadacres. It is a place we can golf without worrying about our handicaps. We can't go to Blue Hill. Our handicaps are too high. I won't tell you mine. After being here for 42 years and giving my all to this town and county, the only thing we have is a nice place we can play nine holes of golf."

Melanie Powell of Clarkstown, who is vice president of a ladies league at Broadacres, said the facility also offers a better opportunity for charitable events, including a recent fundraiser for breast cancer.

"Where will the golf outings we raise money for breast cancer at be played?"
Orangetown resident Pat McAndrews said. "I'm a simple girl, Mr. Supervisor, and I'm having a hard time understanding how closing Broadacres will help the financial problems of Orangetown." 

Neill October 10, 2012 at 04:28 PM
Congratulations to Supervisor Stewart in his openness to welcome ideas from whatever source and also to members of the Board for coming up with innovative ideas to resolve the tax issue…You are applauded for this work and your openness in discussing everything on the table. Do not shy away from consolidating and outsourcing services - including those of the police. As for Broadacres, Kreider, as President of the Ladies League, and Powell must know that having a high handicap does not require one to take 3 hours to play 9 holes as I understand is the practice there. In order for the course to be kept open at taxpayer expense she needs to propose an idea of a similar cut of $300,000 per year that the town board might buy into it. But she doesn't have one and apparently neither does Powell. To keep a golf course open that loses $300,000 per year so that the 30 senior residents can play golf once a week, doesn’t make sense. The town could pay for 30 seniors to play at Blue Hill once a week at $20 a round, close Broadacres and still save 90% of the Broadacres loss. Kreider might not want that free deal if she is required to pick up after 10 strokes - a rule that would be enforced at Blue Hill. Broadacres has cost the town $3million dollars over the last 10 years. Yes its nice to keep Joe Wrafter employed and the other town retirees who sit around that course doing little, but those who don’t play golf are no longer willing to pay for this folly!
Paul W. Valentine October 10, 2012 at 05:32 PM
Eileen, Again I'm surprised by your comment and tone. As a former Town Council women I expected more. The Rockland County Serwer District is not owner by the County and it is a separate and independent entity. It is not broke and has money. Yes it is true that we sunk a ton of money into our sewer department as we still have the debt to show for it. It is also true we took over the Nyack Sewer District several years ago, well before I was on the Town Board and the infrastructure is in real bad shape and will require Millions upon Millions to get back to par. This sales would pay off that debt and give us money to remove the buildings on R.P.C. and more. Of Course we would look out for the workers if this ever came to be. So Eileen what are your answers? Are you O.K. with the 9.19% increase in property tax. You are at every meeting and one week you want to close the golf course and the next you want to keep it open? Which is it? Give me some well though out idea's instead of just criticising our thoughts.
Paul W. Valentine October 10, 2012 at 06:01 PM
Terry, I think we are all better served by sticking to the facts instead of your accusations which have as much merit as me saying you want to cut the police force becasue you are a drug dealer? Both are unfunded, untrue and do not help with the argument for or against. The fact is the Supervisors budget called for hiring four (4) new Radio Operators and no Police Officers. This would cost more then $50K then doing as Tom D. & I suggested which was to hire three (3) replacement officers. The department is at its lowest level since before we took over Nyack more then 20 years ago. The fact is even with the proposed three (3) replacement officers the budget for 2012 had 87 officers and the proposed budget for 2013 would only have 83. Thats a cut of 4 offices over last year alone.I'm not sure if you are aware but we also were seeking cut in personal in other department and asking for a cost analysis of asking all employee to take a unpaid furlough to avoid lay-offs and you are correct it is not personal , just about dollors and cents!
Tom Diviny October 10, 2012 at 07:05 PM
Terry: When I was elected in 2009 there were 90 Orangetown Police Officers. Right now, we are at 80 officers. 11% of the police force was eliminated in 2 1/2 years, saving the town $1,500,000.00. That is a substantial cut in police services. Part of the proposal last night called for a cut of $268,000.00 designated for police vehicles, another substantial cut. The Police Chief has advised the Board that he anticipates another 3-4 officers to retire in 2013, bringing the department down to 76-77 officers. With the department staffed at this level, the Chief has also advised that the number police officers in Pearl River, Blauvelt and Tappan would be reduced. I find this unacceptable. Orangetown has a number of seniors who rely on the police at night, as they are almost always the first responders to medical calls and other emergencies. As for your accusation about business I receive from members of the Orangetown PBA, I have had one real estate closing in the last 3 1/2 years. That is it. Sorrry to disappoint you.
Scott October 11, 2012 at 02:01 PM
I'm all for progressive goivernment and all, but why on earth is a government entity in the GOLF COURSE business. This is an easy cut. I'm a fan of Mr. Stewart, but a 9% tax increase is unacceptable.

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