Assemblyman Lalor and Councilman Marinaro Oppose East Fishkill Town Board Plan to Bust Tax Cap and Hand Out Raises to Themselves

By Kieran Lalor, on Oct 25, 2016

East Fishkill, NY -  Assemblyman Kieran Michael Lalor (R,C,I - East Fishkill) and East Fishkill Town Councilman Emanuele Marinaro (C) have issued statements opposing the East Fishkill Town Board plan to bust the tax cap and simultaneously hand out raises to elected officials. The town board will be holding a public meeting this Thursday at 7p.m. at the town hall where the plan to go over the tax cap will be discussed. Lalor and Marinaro are calling on East Fishkill residents to attend the town board meeting this Thursday, October 27th, at 7p.m. at the town hall to voice their opposition to the tax hike plan. They are also asking residents to join a Facebook page to share information about this issue with residents.  

"The town shouldn't raise taxes over the property tax cap when it could save tax dollars by reining in spending first," said Lalor. "The town should take steps to cut spending. That would mean selling town-owned properties that are of little value to town residents or trimming the fat in the town bureaucracy."

One area of East Fishkill spending that received statewide attention from fiscal watchdogs in 20132014 and 2015 is the extravagant compensation package for the town's attorney, Tom Wood.  Wood works 32 hours a week for the Town of Cortlandt and 12 hours a week for East Fishkill. Between the two towns he makes $243,881 in salary, with at least $97,500 coming from East Fishkill taxpayers. In addition to the salary, Wood receives benefits from East Fishkill. The Empire Center named Wood as one of the highest paid municipal workers in the state, describing him as "the highest-earning double-dipper able to be confirmed by Empire Center research." In fact, Wood is a triple dipper. When East Fishkill gets involved in litigation, his law firm is often paid by the town to handle it.

Lalor continued, "This cap-busting tax hike can't be blamed on unfunded mandates from the state when the town invites the cost of unfunded mandates with the decision to make the part-time town attorney an employee with benefits rather than an independent contractor."

Many town residents believe the town board is unresponsive to the electorate because East Fishkill is a one-party town dominated by a few nominally Republican families.  Despite attempts by town residents to change to give voters a say with a primary system, the East Fishkill Republican Committee continues to ban primary elections for town offices. Despite being unpopular in the town,  Supervisor John Hickman ran unopposed in 2007, 2009, 2013 and 2015. Concerns about East Fishkill's ban on primary elections for town officials were outlined in this Poughkeepsie Journal article.

Councilman Marinaro said, "This plan is unacceptable. The board proposes to go over the tax cap, while continuing to give out raises to town employees and elected officials. The town wastes money on a fitness facility off of Lime Kiln road that is only used by a handful of people in a town of 30,000. It costs the town $96,000 a year to maintain the facility. We could close the town gym and give every one of those 30 people a membership to a private gym for $20,000 total. That doesn't make sense. I've heard from voter after voter that they don't support this tax increase, that they want the town to cut spending. That's why I oppose the plan to break the tax cap."

Marinaro continued, "Despite last year's historically mild winter and little or no need to pay for salt and plowing, town leaders claim the tax cap needs to be exceeded to fund the highway department.  The town should only do the paving that absolutely needs to be done this year and wait for the Sports Dome and other businesses proposed for the former IBM site along the Route 52 corridor to come online and generate increased revenue to the town next year and thereafter. The taxpayer is always asked to pay just a little bit more, whether it is fees on utility bills or another tax increase. I'm encouraging town residents to attend the meeting Thursday to say enough is enough." 

Lalor added, "This decision to bust the tax cap sets a bad precedent for future budgets and other towns. Elected officials owe it to taxpayers to take every step possible to avoid and minimize tax hikes. That hasn't been done here and it is a great disservice to East Fishkill taxpayers."  He noted, "I fully expect Hickman and de facto Supervisor Wood to kill the messengers on this issue and do everything they can to obscure the fact that they have been running the town for years and the desire to go over the cap is proof they haven't lived within their means as the families of East Fishkill have to do."   

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