GOP candidates couldn’t be bothered to participate in budget process they criticized

To the Editor:
I am one who will rarely respond to letters to the editor. I’m also one who rarely reads fiction but when I read a fictional piece that someone writes out of total disingenuousness or an inept ignorance, I feel I must respond.

Last week, The Enterprise published a letter from Peter Drao and Charissa Mayer commenting on what they perceived as a “vapor budget hearing”  [“Vapor budget hearing put us in a state of shock,” Letter to the Editor].

Firstly, I am glad their state of shock has subsided but their ranting letter suggests that it is still affecting them.

I do appreciate that Mr. Drao has “attended more than 100 budget hearings” but, as a candidate, I wish he had attended more of our town board meetings. I guess he couldn’t be bothered.

If he and Ms. Mayer had attended more than two (Drao) and one (Mayer), of a total of 18 town board meetings since they became candidates, most of their points would have been answered. Two of those 18 meetings were budget workshops that they chose not to attend! I guess they couldn’t be bothered.

Let’s recap the budget process:

— On June 2, 2021, a memo was sent from my office to all department heads asking for their budget requests to be submitted by July 9, 2021. This information was collected and incorporated into my proposed budget after my review;

— On Sept. 22, 2021, at a special town board meeting, we set the dates for the budget workshops and public hearing. Neither candidate attended that meeting. I guess they couldn’t be bothered;

— On Sept. 29, 2021, I presented the tentative budget (my budget) to the town clerk as prescribed by law;

— On Oct. 4, 2021, the town clerk presented the tentative budget to the town board and subsequently to the public by posting all 220(!) pages on the website. Neither candidate attended. Couldn’t be bothered?;

— On Oct. 7, 2021, the town board went through the tentative budget, page by page and fund by fund, discussing thoroughly and making some revisions. Neither candidate attended. Couldn’t be bothered?;

— On Oct. 14, 2021, the town board had a second budget workshop, which dealt with cost-of-living adjustments, a revised salary scale, and a potential tax cut.

This would have been an opportune time for the opposition candidates to hear the discussion which included a COLA of 4 percent for every employee, a revised salary scale with two new levels added for all employees, and the discussion of going from a +1.99-percent tax-rate increase to a -1.50-percent tax-rate decrease. The rationale for a tax cut was thoroughly discussed and explained.

Mr. Drao and Ms. Mayer may still have engaged in disinformation but at least they would have known the facts. I guess, once again, they couldn’t be bothered;

— On Oct. 26, 2021 the town board’s revised budget (the preliminary budget) for the public hearing, was sent to the town clerk who immediately posted the 220-page document on the website. This allowed for another nine days of public review before the public hearing. Clearly, they couldn’t be bothered to read it;

— On Nov. 4, 2021 the town board held a public hearing on the 2022 preliminary budget. For clarity, a public hearing is just that. We had already presented the budget and fully discussed it at the workshops. Now was the time to hear from the public.

The only attendees from the public were Mr. Drao and Ms. Mayer. At 1:51 minutes into the hearing, I asked Ms. Mayer personally if she had any questions or comments. She did not.

At 3:36 minutes into the hearing, Mr. Drao signed on and I personally asked him twice if he had any questions or comments. “I’m just listening in,” he said without any discernible shock.

Once again, at 7:10 minutes into the hearing, I asked if either had any questions or comments. Neither did. We closed the public hearing after close to 15 minutes of no comments. There was all that uninterrupted time for their questions or comments but I guess they couldn’t be bothered.

I do take offense in a couple of ways to their misinformation. One is that we have the most transparent and detailed budget process in the area with some suggesting that we offer too much information.

Maybe they should look to the town of Berne’s budget and compare. I’m sure their supporters from Berne would be happy to help.

Secondly, throughout the campaign and in their letter to the editor, they made it a point to try to criticize the town board but in reality they are criticizing everyone involved — my staff, department heads, and other employees who work on each year’s budget. This is unacceptable even out of ignorance!

We publicly provide all of the budget worksheets, which contain detailed information including department heads’ requests such as pay increases and/or equipment purchases. One example in the 220-page preliminary budget (posted publicly eight days before the public hearing and available to those who can be bothered) is the 4-percent cost-of-living adjustment being noted on every “personal services” worksheet. (e.g. page 128).

In summary, any and all of the points raised in Mr. Drao’s and Ms. Mayer’s letter would have been answered by attending town board meetings, especially budget workshops, placing a phone call, and/or by looking on the town’s website. It seems that would be a minimal effort in running for office unless, of course, you couldn’t be bothered.

Doug LaGrange

New Scotland

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