Mr. Lyons is more interested in political patronage than the welfare of our town

To the Editor:

I want to thank all of the Berne residents who have called me to get the real facts about the town’s financial history and current situation.

I feel that I need to provide all Berne residents with the facts to counter Supervisor [Sean] Lyons’s political fiction that he called the “Town of Berne Financial Update.” This “Financial Update” was written without any numbers or facts and was intentionally meant to mislead Berne taxpayers [“Berne super says COVID tax losses won’t affect town staff or services,” The Altamont Enterprise, Aug. 25, 2020].

Fact #1 — The town of Berne’s largest revenue stream is the Albany County sales tax, which accounts for $1,060,000 (2020 budget) or approximately 56 percent of Mr. Lyons’ budget revenue. Mr. Lyons seeks to mislead residents by stating, “Our town does not rely heavily on this income.” In fact, Albany County sales tax is the largest revenue stream for the town of Berne.

Fact #2 — With this in mind, and the fact that New York State Comptroller has estimated the Capital District sales tax revenue loss of up to 32.9 percent, Mr. Lyons could be looking at a budget shortfall, for the current town fiscal year of $350,000, which must be in the town’s bank account in order to pay salaries, benefits, and town bills.

Fact # 3 — Mr. Lyons’s “Financial Update” says that “…the general fund revenues will be reduced by 2.5%.” This again is false and misleading, because the town’s general fund relies most heavily on sales-tax revenue that could be reduced by up to 30 percent.

Fact #4 — Mr. Lyons failed to respond or take action as far back as February, when residents began asking about the town’s financial condition.

Fact # 5 — Mr. Lyons now has only one-quarter of the town fiscal year to make up for the approximately $350,000 loss in sales-tax revenue from the first three quarters of the fiscal year. Mr. Lyons would have taxpayers believe that he can accomplish that with increased clerk’s fees — which were $2,500 in his 2020 budget and with the clerk’s office basically closed for the past six months.

In addition, Mr. Lyons makes the outlandish statement that a 400-percent increase in recycling fees will make up for the rest of the sales tax revenue loss. Mr. Lyons doesn’t say what the recycling fees were or why he believes they have increased by 400 percent. How is it possible that this could make up for even a fraction of the loss in sales-tax revenue? What about the $4,000 that was added to the transfer-station budget to “compensate” Mr. [Highway Superintendent Randy] Bashwinger for his illegitimate transfer-station job that was not in the budget. Does this increase in recycling fees cover Mr. Bashwinger’s $4,000 raise?

Fact #6 — Mr. Lyons’s 2020 town budget includes a $260,000 spending increase — the largest one-year spending increase in the town’s history. With that, Mr. Lyons tried to mislead residents by publishing a fraudulent budget document, right before last year’s election, that promised they were going to get a 9-percent tax cut. How is that mathematically possible?

Fact #7 — Mr. Lyons, without looking at the cost or financial implications, initially “negotiated” a 12-percent raise for the highway workers that was lowered a little to 10 percent due to public pressure — no bargaining necessary? It is the largest raise to any New York State union in 2020. Not to mention the new and very large longevity hourly pay raises, with employees able to take up to eight weeks off each year, no penalty for being late for work every day, three-day weekends year-round and other expensive giveaways [“Berne highway workers get 3-year 10-percent raise in new contract,” The Altamont Enterprise, Aug. 27, 2020].

I ask my fellow Berne residents, when was the last time you got a 10-percent raise plus longevity pay and eight weeks off?

It is clear to me that Mr. Lyons is more interested in political patronage than he is in caring about the welfare and fiscal health of our town. His “Financial Update” is nothing more than a political con job.

In closing, please fill out your 2020 census. Sales-tax revenue is based on population as determined by the census. With only 50 percent of Berne residents currently having filled out the census, the town could see another large reduction in sales-tax revenue.

Please do your civic duty — fill out the census and vote!

Kevin Crosier 

East Berne

Editor’s note: Kevin Crosier, a Democrat, was Berne’s supervisor before Sean Lyons, a Republican, replaced him.

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