This is the last blog for this series but not the end of the campaign for lower taxes. Several weeks ago this campaign began when I saw Mayor Pontieri on TV opposing Gov. Cuomo’s new tax cap reform plan. I felt then as I still feel that the Mayor did not speak for me and whether he was speaking for the people of Patchogue Village was questionable.
He had taken his position without consulting with the voters for example after holding a public hearing to get the pulse of the public. He had not sought a supporting resolution from the Patchogue Village Board of Trustees. While I recognized he had the power to do what he had done I found myself deeply troubled by the absence of any public consultation with other elected leaders of the village who by law share with him responsibility for governing the Village. We are it should be remembered governed by seven elected officials not one.
In time the Governor prevailed and his plan became law although compliance with its provisions is not mandatory. Tax rebate checks may get into the hands of local residents but not until the village does comply completely with a two percent tax cap which this year it has not.
This year’s budget exceeded the tax cap by less than one percent. But the price of obtaining that tax rate was quite high: transferring at least 600,000 dollars of reserve funds to lower the deficit to bring the tax increase down to the eventual approved level.
And it also should be noted that while the general fund was held close to the cap, the sewer fund which saw a seven percent tax increase came in way above the two percent tax cap level.
Limited victories with the battle ahead for better now to come. And it is about that battle that I want to say these last closing comments.
The village budget process needs drastic reform. The budget draft appeared only a few days ahead of the public hearing. The time that the public had to see that draft and assess its terms in my opinion was insufficient. A public hearing held at a time when most tax payers are still at work or coming home from work also is not right. The public to have its say has to have a meeting when it can get to it not a meeting time convenient to elected officials but not the public.
The absence of a public informational meeting chaired by the Village Treasurer again another area for reform. The budget is a complex process. Its terms and provisions not easily understood. The Village Treasurer as a public service should meet with the public ahead of any public hearing and explain the budget to all who are interested in knowing more about it. The sum total of all these deficits is a budget process that serves those in power and not those who put them there.
That is some of the lessons I learned from all of this and these too.
The public is asleep. Apathy is deeper than I had really thought. Once again a small attendance of residents at the meeting and a handful of residents asking questions. In these circumstances change is hard to expect. Moreover the public is divided. When this blog and this writer is subjected to anonymous vilification alleging among other things that I took an appointment from the Mayor as a bribe to accept the terms of the recent budget vote, all untrue, that is a sign of serious illness inside the body politic. We need to be beware of corruption not at the highest levels but at the lowest fed by envy, distorted mentality, and a warped sense of values that says it is OK to destroy by any means necessary any person with a different point of view.
That said this is what I know. I am going to continue my efforts to reduce taxes and find others who will join with me in a campaign to do so. There will be more blogs and more facts reported in the days ahead. I am convinced that village tax payers still have a small time window during which change can still occur. But my sense of things is that if that does not happen what lies ahead, once all the one shots have been exhausted and hard decisions avoided, is double digit tax increases that will be imposed to bail us all of a mess that with a different plan could have been avoided.
And for all those who did contribute to this campaign in a more positive way: thanks. While I have gotten to see some of the worse parts of human nature I have also seen some of the better parts too and for that I am grateful and will take those also as a sign that there are indeed people in this village who want to see better outcomes. If we can all band together whether in this campaign or any companion efforts that others want to put together then I believe that real victory is still within reach. Not today yet but there is still tomorrow and none of us should give up hope of that nor be pushed off course by anyone to get there.
Apathy is not a solution activism is.