Extravagant raises for some and huge cutbacks in needed services

To the Editor:

I am enrolled as a Democrat, but I grew up in a Republican household. My parents were Republicans largely because they were fiscal conservatives. They believed in living within their means, tightening the belt when things were bad, and putting away something for a rainy day. I have been shaped by those values.

For most of the 37 years I have lived in Berne, I noticed that those in charge of local government seemed to abide by those fiscally-conservative values. Expenditures were carefully evaluated, tax increases were minimal or nonexistent, and funds were put into the reserve for a rainy day. And this was mostly under administrations led by Democrats.

So, with an administration led by Republicans and Conservatives, wouldn’t it be logical to expect the same? We read about our neighboring towns recognizing the economic damage that COVID has inflicted on local economies and the need to tighten the belt.

Many, unfortunately, are having to cut back on workers. I have heard of none considering major raises. But in Berne, the proposed budget calls for extravagant raises for some and huge cutbacks in needed services for the public, without any clear explanation and justification for any of it.

The town leaders negotiated a raise of over 9 percent over three years for the highway workers. In a year when things were flush, I could maybe understand that. With many in Berne having lost their jobs during this pandemic, it seems high. But at least this raise in going to people who are out there working hard.

However, a 24-percent increase in the salary of the code-enforcement officer? What exactly is he doing? Are there any statistics to support this increase? And the building and zoning inspector. A 30-percent increase at a time when just about nothing has been coming before the planning board because of the pandemic?

And then there is the 6-percent increase for this year for the highway superintendent. Really? For someone who is not able to adequately supervise his staff because he has a patronage job in Albany that requires he be off the Hill for the majority of the time they are working? This is not about good governance. It is all about cronyism.

And it has a serious cost to taxpayers, not only fiscally but potentially medically. The money for these increases must come from somewhere. The budget for parks has been slashed so no income will be coming in for the town from rentals at Switzkill Farm. Neglect of those town-owned buildings will require more maintenance at a future date, costing the taxpayers more money.

And most importantly, the sheriff’s ambulance service, which provides coverage when our overworked Helderberg Ambulance volunteers cannot answer the call, has been slashed by $40,000. We in Berne live about 45 minutes from a hospital. Will we be able to secure an ambulance when we have an emergency? How does this make sense, especially in a pandemic?

It’s time to stop the shenanigans and make a sensible budget that is clearly understood and benefits all the residents of Berne, not just a few.

Susan Hawkes-Teeter


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