November 5, 2014 The Town of North Castle is pleased to announce that Moody’s Investor Service has raised the Town Bond Rating to Aaa (Triple A). The rationale for the upgrade includes the Town’s recently improved financial position, strong management team, diverse and wealthy tax base and manageable debt burden.
Supervisor Michael Schiliro stated: “I am extremely pleased that the Town has accomplished the goal of restoring its Aaa rating. Over the past five years we have produced structurally balanced budgets and restored our reserves to healthy levels by adopting and implementing a fund balance policy. It was a true team effort that spanned several Town boards and administrations, Town staff, and residents. Everyone should be proud of contributing to this accomplishment. This rating upgrade will provide a long term benefit to the taxpayers of the Town for years to come.”
Additionally, Moody’s stated that, “The town’s financial position will remain healthy due to sound fiscal management that includes the adoption and implementation of formal financial policies and conservative budgeting practices.”
Town Takes Action Against Zombi Homes
October 24, 2014 Over the several past months, the North Castle Town Board has discussed a property maintenance law with the public’s input. Several drafts of the legislation were drawn to address abandoned properties, also referred to as zombie properties. At its meeting on October 22 meeting, the Town Board unanimously passed a new law permitting the Town to keep all properties “clean, properly maintained and free from vermin, nuisances, hazards, debris and litter.”
Anyone in offense of the law will be ordered to remove the offense within 30 days by notice of North Castle’s Building Department. Any person found guilty of a violation may be fined a penalty of up to $500. A second offense within 18 months may be punished with a fine up to $1,000. A third offense within 18 months of the second fine is punishable by a “fine of not less than $2,500 and not more than $5,000.” A fourth fine is punishable up to $7,500.
If the violation/s are not responded to and complied with, the Town Board, upon review and receipt of a detailed inspection by the Building Inspector, may hire a private contractor to do the necessary maintenance work. The Town will pay for the costs from the town’s general funds. In these cases, a lien will be levied against the property’s owner.
Armonk developer and resident Michael Fareri challenged part of the legislation that allowed the Superintendent of Highway or any other town employee to correct the violation issues. Fareri recommended, and the Town Board agreed, that only a private contractor should be hired for the cleanup jobs. He said these jobs should not be done by Highway Department because the employees are not janitors and they have plenty of other work to do. Also, Fareri says a private contractor should be the only source hired to avoid any potential challenge for the cleanup costs with different rates paid to various town employees.
Town Administrator Joan Goldberg wanted the option to remain to hire either the town employees or a private contractor for any cleanup work. Goldberg said since a town employee must confirm that a job is completed before a private contractor can be paid, it might be better to have the option to have the job done by either a private contractor or town employee. But Town Board members agreed that they do not expect many situations of this nature to arise. And if there is an issue with who will clean up the violation, the legislation of who is able to do the work can be reviewed.
Marc Kirschner, a resident of Hopes Farm Lane, Bedford, strongly supported the property maintenance legislation. “I’m pleased with the narrow language of the legislation for an abandoned property.”
The public conversation initially began months ago with the lack of enforcement to cleanup an abandoned property on Hopes Farm Lane. Kirschner said that the property has been legally under dispute between its mortgage lenders for about five years. In the meantime, no one has maintained the property. Kirschner says it’s an environmental hazard, a nuisance and invites vandalism. As well, the neglected home destroys property values and is an eyesore in the residential neighborhood.
Prior discussions of this legislation included violations of graffiti and garbage dumps. But that language has been withdrawn from the new law because it was too complicated. Existing New York State property codes and enforcement laws allow the Town to clean up grass weeds, broken-down fences, and other work that may be needed if a property is not being properly maintained by its owner. This type of work, if necessary, may also be levied against the property owner.
North Castle’s Sales and Mortgage Taxes in Excess of Projections
October 8, 2014 The mortgage taxes and the sales taxes that are received from New York State are a revenue source that are not controlled by North Castle.
A report of the mortgage tax collections and sales tax collections from the Town Comptroller was received by the Town Board at the October 8 Town Board meeting.
From October 2013 to September 2014, both the received sales taxes and mortgage taxes will exceed the Town’s projected budgeted lines, says Supervisor Michael Schiliro.
New York State allocates shares of sales tax to the State, Mass Transit Authority, Westchester County, local governments and school districts. According to the Westchester.gov website, Westchester County's current sales tax rate of 7-3/8% went into effect in June 2010. The sales tax rate allocated to local governments, including North Castle, is 20% of 1/2%. The County’s tax rate share is 70% of 1/2%. The local school districts’ share is 10% of 1/2%.
The Town Comptroller’s report says only the first half of this year’s sales taxes have been collected. That amount is $863,000. The amount sales tax budgeted for North Castle in 2014 was $1.5 Million. This is equivalent to the sales tax budget line item in 2013. Schiliro says the received sales tax projection will be about $1.7 Million. This is approximately $200,000 more than projected in the budget.
The mortgage tax revenues from October 2013 to September 2014 was projected to be $650,000. To date, the town has received $726,000 in mortgage taxes. Schiliro expects the Town to receive September mortgage taxes of approximately $70,000. This amount will put the year's mortgage taxes in excess of $800,000. That is about $150,000 more than the projected budget. But this amount is 5% less than the actual mortgage taxes received in the 2013.
The total excess of $350,000 in mortgage taxes and sales taxes will be applied towards the Town’s General Fund Balance.
Public work sessions for the 2015 town budget are scheduled to begin on October 15 at 5:00 p.m. at the Hergenhan Recreation Center in Armonk.
Board Decides Not to Refer Citizen’s Letter to Ethics Board
September 24, 2014 On the agenda at the North Castle Town Board’s meeting on September 23 was a letter that was received from resident Mario Ruggiero. The letter requested the Town Board to bring North Castle’s Town Clerk, Anne Curran, up for review in front of the North Castle’s Board of Ethics on charges of Town violations.
In Ruggiero’s letter dated September 19, he accused Curran of acting outside her job description for political gain by arranging former Town Board member Becky Kittredge’s funeral in August 2013 that was weeks before a contentious Town primary election. Ruggerio accused Curran of using the funeral service to promote the candidacy of Barbara DiGiacinto in the Republican primary for Town Board. A life-long friend of Becky’s, DiGiacinto gave one of the eulogies at the service.
The accusation that Curran made funeral arrangements for former Councilwoman Becky Kittredge is false. “I did not arrange the funeral arrangements,” says Anne Curran, “I attempted to arrange the broadcast of the service.”
Supervisor Michael Schiliro said that at the time, it was the correct decision and the right one to have Becky’s ceremony in front of Town Hall and to air it on the Town's TV channel so people who could not attend the service could watch the video. With that in mind, Schiliro added of Ruggerio's request, “It is a simple decision now to not refer this letter to the Ethics Board."
Schiliro cited more than 16 inaccuracies in Ruggerio's letter and said of bringing up this issue almost a year after the fact, especially the circumstances of Becky's funeral, the letter is "indecent, at best.”
“This is a judgment call on the Board’s part,” said Town Attorney Roland Baroni. “The efficacy of the supposed allegations, and the time period involved, you are under no obligation to refer every letter such as this. There might be ulterior motives to this, who knows. It seems to be a pattern of conduct we are having from a few malcontent residents.”
By majority vote, the Town Board can vote to refer Ruggerio’s letter, or not, to the Board of Ethics, added Baroni. The Board voted unanimously not to refer the letter to the Ethics Board.
Ruggerio wrote in his letter, “After the funeral service an email discussion took place among the town board members regarding the airing of the funeral on the town’s TV channel.” Ruggerio asserted that afterward, Curran sent content from the private e-mails between the Town Board members regarding the support of the TV coverage. Ruggerio accused Curran of publicly sending the content of those e-mails as a political maneuver “to make Arden, Roth and Cronin look bad.” The three were not in favor of airing the taped service.
By a majority vote at that time, the Town Board decided not to pay, or air the video of the funeral service. As a Councilman at the time, Schiliro says he offered to pay for the video taping himself, as did Councilman Stephen D'Angelo. The tape ended up airing on the Town’s TV station.
Roland Baroni said that if a final determination is made among Town Board members in an e-mail, that is a public document, while an intra-agency communication exchanged between Board members is not necessarily public.
Ruggerio’s letter further stated, “Curran acted outside the scope of her employment (by using her office to further her political partisanship) and North Castle’s code of ethics. Her behavior qualifies her for a suspension and for her removal as one of the town’s computer administrators.” He further stated, “Let’s see what the Ethics Board says, that’s what they do.”
A letter from Sue Miller, a friend of Becky Kittredge's for more than 30 years and who gave a Eulogy at the service, was read at the Town Board meeting. Miller said that it was she who made the arrangements for the public funeral in front of the Town Hall as one Becky’s last wishes. She met with Kittredge’s stepson and the former Police Chief, Geoffrey Harisch, to make the arrangements. Furthermore, Miller said that she urges the Town Board to help set the record straight and that this is Ruggerio and his buddies latest “efforts to tear our town apart.”
Resident Barry Malvin says of Ruggerio's letter, “I was struck by the absence of any feeling for the occasion of Becky Kittredge’s funeral. I was grateful that I could attend that ceremony and that the service was held in the setting. Many of us loved Becky and we were sad to see her go.”
Ruggerio says, "I am not disgruntled and this is not about Becky, even if Schiliro says that is what this whole thing focuses on."
“These buildings were Becky’s home,” remarked Schiliro. “The residents and the workers were her family. And her last request was given to her, and she deserved every minute of it. To read Ruggerio’s letter does not reflect this town and who we are.”
He continued, "Anne Curran has and continues to serve this town with grace and dignity and some of the things said about her (in this letter) are so far from the truth. She does her job professionally, and runs the office that is the gateway of our community.”
After the vote, Ruggerio said he could have accepted the Town Board’s decision, but because of Schiliro’s tone, Ruggerio says he will contact his lawyer to consider whether he will file an Article 78 or not. “Schiliro says I was slamming Becky, I wasn’t. It has nothing to do with Becky. It has to do with politics.”
North Castle Town Board’s New Public Comment Period Policy is Considered
September 23, 2014 Tonight the Town Board is seeking to create a set of policy rules for the public comment period during the Town Board's biweekly meetings. All of the meetings are taped and streamed live online, and can be replayed from the Town’s website, as well as shown live and replayed on North Castle's public access television station. The wide audience allows ease of communication for public issues. As a courtesy, the Town Board permits the public comments, but some speakers have used the platform for their personal agendas. The goal of the policy is to allow the public to speak about matters before the Town in a timely manner.
The following draft has been submitted for the Town Board to consider at the September 23, 2014 Town Board Meeting:
Speakers should sign up by printing their names and addresses.
Speakers will be recognized in the order in which they signed up.
Speakers should state their names and addresses when they are called to speak.
Speakers should address the Supervisor and the Town Board and not engage other speakers or staff in debates.
Speakers should limit their comments to five minutes in an effort to conduct an orderly meeting and allow everyone a chance to speak.
Speakers should limit their comments to matters before the Board and announcements of upcoming Town Events.
All speakers are expected to comment with respect and civility.
Personal attacks on Town Employees and Town Consultants will not be tolerated.
The Supervisor reserves the right to stop a speaker’s comments if they are not in accordance with this approved public comment policy
State of the Town Presented at Armonk Lion’s Meeting By Louise T. Gantress
March 23, 2014 Armonk Lion President and Town Justice Douglas Martino welcomed Supervisor Michael Schiliro and North Castle Town Board members Jose Berra, Barbara DiGiacinto, Barry Reiter and Stephen D’Angelo on March 18 to the Lion’s annual meeting at David Chen’s Restaurant for a presentation on the State of the Town.
Supervisor Schiliro began with an overview of this winter’s staggering statistics of 18 storms and 77 inches of snowfall: The Highway Department was instrumental in its management, with help from the Parks Department, and the Water & Sewer Department. The town will evaluate how to improve snow removal, which may include an investment to upgrade the Highway Department’s fleet.
A review of some of the current issues facing the Town were briefly described as follows:
Revamping of Water District #2 in Windmill Farms is close to a start date. The cost is approximately $10 million, which includes a 20% contingency to cover any cost overruns.
The site proposed as Armonk’s Wampus Park South has bids out for design, with construction bids to follow. A thorough review process included North Castle’s Parks and Recreation Board, Town Planner, Town Board, Chairman of the Conservation Board, and North Castle residents.
Town finances are on a good track, adhering to the tax cap and aided by an increase in sales tax and mortgage recording tax receipts; there was a cumulative tax increase of 6.4% over the last four budgets, which is about 1.60% per year.
The Town Board is looking for additional parking now that Armonk Square is open. Possible sites under consideration are the open space behind the Hergenhan Recreation Center, Kent Place behind Main Street, and Verizon’s parking lot near the Armonk Library. A possibility which has been discussed in a public work session is the creation of a parking district. Possible funding for such districts can come from future developments in town, with payments in lieu of parking spots at an approximate cost of $10,000 to $13,000 per slot that is possible for commercial use.
North Castle was selected as one of 31 towns in Westchester -- and one of 10 from 1,000 in New York State -- to draft a model affordable housing ordinance. North Castle’s middle income housing program is available for applicants who meet the income requirements; the Town then awards a middle income housing unit based on a points system, which includes residency in town or county, working for the town, etc. The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development does not recognize the Town’s existing 34 units of MIUs as affordable units.
The North Castle Library is exploring the installation of free Wi-Fi in downtown Armonk.
All the interior and exterior building permits for CVS Pharmacy are in order. CVS has begun interior work and will soon re-start the outdoor work.
A new restaurant, Zero Otto Nove, will replace Route 22 Restaurant on Old Route 22.
Fundraising by Wallover and Benjamin Moore Paint gave the Town nearly $17,000 toward the historical Washington headquarters at the Elijah Miller House in North White Plains.
Con Edison is completing the tree cutting project to protect power lines for the “Armonk Loop” strip, from Cox Avenue to Banksville Road and into Windmill Farms. The Town has limited cutting to 10 trees per property with a review required along Town and New York State’s right-of-ways.
Brynwood Golf & Country Club’s proposed development of 88 condominium units is frozen; the Town wants the residential portion of the development to be taxable as single family homes (SFH) and not as condominiums -- due to the tax rate differential that a condominium is taxed at a lesser rate than a SFH. The proposed density of the project is also a concern.
The 911 system requires that all North Castle’s homes be in numerical order to insure maximum first responder service. The Town recently conducted a work session and invited the affected homeowners from a small section of Windmill Farms. With the help of the residents, a solution was crafted.
The Town has requested New York State approval for a hotel tax; last year a resolution passed the Assembly but failed in the Senate. Assemblyman David Buchwald and Senator George Latimer are in favor of this revenue measure for the Town. If Senator Latimer is re-elected, he said he will argue in the Senate again in favor of the resolution.
Supervisor Schiliro said he has an open door policy and residents can call 273-3001 to make an appointment to meet with him on Saturday mornings.
The Armonk Lions will celebrate the 40th anniversary of their main fundraising event, the Fol de Rol Country Fair, in June. More information can be found at http://armonklions.org/folderol.php
Fired and Rehired, Town Administrator Joan Goldberg Says It's Great to Be Back
January 14, 2014 Fired on December 20, 2013, and back to work on January 13, 2014, Ms. Goldberg was inactive in her position as town administrator for three weeks. But given that her intentions were to take two weeks for vacation, "which was not a lot of fun,” she only missed one week of work.
Q. Has anything changed?
A. Back for two days, and within that short period of time, not much has changed, except that when I left, we had sixteen operational snow trucks, and now we have only eight, with major break downs and a couple of accidents. If we have a snowstorm, we're in trouble. The guys are working overtime and trying to repair what they can. Two new trucks have been ordered with a delivery date of February, but now they are saying March and we'll probably miss delivery for the entire snow season for this year.
Q. We don't have a comptroller and you are capable of taking on that responsibility. Will you have to fill in until the town hires somebody?
A. That's the plan. There is already a committee, a task force, to hire and they already have some resumes. They just finalized the job description and Supervisor Schiliro has a list of publications that the job will be advertised in.
Q. You were written a new contract?
A. The contract remains the same and the severance pay clause remains. You realize that the severance clause actually helps the town -- it doesn't help me. If I have a two-year contract, the town is bound to pay me for the two years. If they kicked me out in six months, they don't pay me for the year and a half that I don't work. I put the severance clause in there because I feel that I wouldn’t work some place that doesn't want me. If something happens, the six months buys me enough time to get another job. It benefits the town.
Q . Your job responsibilities have not changed?
No, the town administrator's job responsibilities haven't changed, except now I'll be helping out in finance, as it will probably take sixty days to fill the town comptroller slot.
Q. Your job is to hire personnel?
A. The way I see the town administrator’s position, I'm here to assist the department heads with getting the job done. I'm here to assist the residents with whatever they need help with. Right now we have three departments that don't have department heads. You have an acting department head in Recreation, you have an acting department head in Building, and now we don't have anybody in Finance. So I've jumped in and helped in the other departments, doing actual work rather than just overseeing.
Q. Are we going to see any changes in your style or technique as administrator?
A. I've given that a lot of thought. Leopards don't change their spots. I'm an old dog at this and I'm good at it. And the people who know me know that I'm genuinely interested in helping people. I certainly don't mean to ever have offended anyone, and if I did, maybe I need to make it more apparent to the work force that, 'if I did offend you, come talk to me.' Certain people may need a different handle, but in general, no. I think my style works; I really am cut to the chase, let's get it done.
Q. Are we going to see a softer Joan Goldberg?
A. I'm trying. When you have so much responsibility and such a limited amount of time, you’ve got to get stuff done. So now it's a matter that I read an email a second time and maybe tweak a couple of words to make sure it doesn't come across too strong.
Q. Are settlement charges of discrimination or harassment covered by insurance?
A. The Town carries a public officer’s policy. We are covered under New York Municipal Insurance Reciprocal (NYMIR) and they have been notified of the claims and allegations. The public officer insurance policies that the Town has covers the Town and any action taken by any public officer; an elected official; an appointed official; and department heads. There are dollar limitations of whatever the policy maximum amount is. I think the insurance company is responsible for the defense and the bills will get submitted to them, but nothing has been filed yet. The town has not been served the EEOC claim.
Q. The Town hired a private investigator to look into allegations of harassment, bullying and discrimination. Were you interviewed after you were fired? And was it determined that there was no wrong doing?
A. Yes, and other people working for the Town were also interviewed. But Conroy Hucey, who filed the racial discrimination claim with the EEOC, and who, from what I understand, is represented by Jason Berland, was not allowed to be interviewed. This decision by Hucey was based on advice from Berland. The previous Town Board let me go on allegations.
I hope everybody can see through all this and realize it's just nonsense. Let's just get back to work.
White Plains Resident Job-Seeker Files Discrimination Complaint Against North Castle
December 30, 2013 Conroy Hucey, of White Plains, filed a racial discrimination complaint with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and New York State Division of Human Rights against the Town of North Castle on December 24, 2013. The alleged discrimination took place in April 2013 when Mr. Hucey applied for a part-time, seasonal position with North Castle's Parks Department.
Hucey was interviewed by Don Brandes, the Parks Foreman of the Recreation Department. Hucey was told he was both qualified and perfect for the job, and he was given a start date, says Jason Berland, lawyer with Beys, Stein, Mobargha, and Berland LLP, who was asked to provide assistance in filing the claim.
"Joan Goldberg [the recently fired Town Administrator who managed the work force at the time] then quashed the opportunity and made comments to the applicant and to his wife, who works for the Town. The comments led them to believe that racial discrimination was at play," added Berland. "Shortly thereafter, two white men were hired for the same position."
We spoke with Joan Goldberg about seasonal part-time workers before she was fired. Goldberg said the Town has 20-ton trucks and that the town is not going to accept the risk of liability by putting a seasonal worker in one of the big trucks. Drivers have to have experience, and they have to be trained and certified. Under union guidelines, part-time workers can only be hired for four months, then they leave and are entitled to unemployment which the town has no insurance for. The town pays an unemployment benefit by writing a check to the unemployed. Seasonal workers make more sense during the summer when there is a pool of college kids who are willing to work to cut the grass.
The EEOC is a federal agency that enforces laws that protect employees from workplace discrimination. A claimant can not go directly to court on an EEOC claim without first going through the Commission and giving the agency an opportunity to take the case. The EEOC will begin to review a discrimination complaint approximately within 10 days after the compliant was filed, according to the EEOC website.
The EEOC process may include its mediation program. EEOC mediators may suggest viable solutions to the problem, and are often able to settle a charge in less than three months. If the claim can not be resolved through mediation, the Town may be asked to submit a written answer to the charge.
In some cases, the EEOC may conduct interviews and request documents for an investigation that can take up six months. If an employer refuses to cooperate with an EEOC investigation, the people involved can be interviewed, and subpoenas can be issued. The subpoenas would seek to obtain documents and to gain access to the employer's facilities. If a violation were found, the EEOC will "try to reach a voluntary settlement with the employer." If settlement can not be reached, the EEOC will either assign an EEOC attorney to take the case on behalf of the claimant or decline to do so. If a violation of the law is not found, the EEOC would still send a Notice-of-Right-to-Sue to the complainant.
If the EEOC declines to file a discrimination suit against North Castle on behalf of Mr. Hucey, it does not mean that discrimination did not occur, but rather, that Mr. Hucey can choose whether or not to continue pursuing his case in federal court. "Should the EEOC decline and provide a Notice-of-Right-to-Sue letter, my firm will consider representing Mr. Hucey," says Jason Berland. Berland, whose wife, Faith Berland, North Castle's Town Comptroller, is also considering filing a harassment suit against the Town and Joan Goldberg.
Jason Berland said he has been informed that the discrimination issue was discussed at the December 20, 2013 Town Board Executive Session on the day that the Town Administrator Joan Goldberg was fired without cause. "I hope, now that an official claim was filed, Mr. Schiliro and Mr. D'Angelo will take these allegations seriously, as they are series allegations that should cause concern to elected officials who have been entrusted to promote civility and decency in Town Hall."
North Castle 2014 Town Budget Adopted with a 1.02% Tax Increase
Updated December 14, 2013 North Castle Town Board passed a 2014 budget of $29,529,946. The 2014 real property tax rates are determined by the total Town property taxes divided by the total assessed valuation which equals the real property tax rate of $157.93. This marks an increase of 1.02 percent in taxes over the $156.33 tax rate in 2013. Town Administrator Joan Goldberg stated that the North Castle median home, valued at $862,000, will see a $30 annual increase of general taxes.
The 2014 preliminary budget of November 15, 2013 was initially presented with a 2.98 percent tax levy increase with a median household increase of $87.67. Town Board member Steve D'Angelo said the preliminary budget was acceptable. But as has happened over the past two years, Supervisor Howard Arden and Town Board members John Cronin and Diane Roth differed in the philosophy of budgeting. Arden, with the support of Cronin and Roth, proposed two different modifications to the preliminary budget. The first amendment was received on December 9 with initial changes that reduced the preliminary budget by $543,528. Much of the budget reductions were in salary cuts and elimination of staff positions across some of the Town's departments. Also a reduction was made of $95,000 for the 2014 reserve allocated for the contingency budget, which is the Town's emergency fund. The reduced allocation of $180,000 to the Contingency Fund is still within the 1 percent targeted policy of the general budget. On December 11, Arden presented further reductions totaling $640,033 cut from the preliminary budget. This included the refuse, garbage, and recycling contracts which pared another $340,000 savings off Town expenditures.
Arden's last-minute proposed modifications did not allow sufficient time for anyone other than the three outgoing Town Board members to thoroughly review the proposed cuts. Within the three hours of the public hearing discussion at the December 11 meeting, all of the changes presented in the two modifications were reviewed. If the cuts had been agreed upon, Arden's proposed changes would have meant an unexpected decrease in the Town tax rate of .5 percent.
The department funds of the 2014 overall budget of $29,529,956 are as follows:
The General Government budget is $17,646,355 or 61% of the Town budget, The Highway Fund is $5,500,084 or 17%, The Library Fund is $1,664,848 or 6%, The Sewer Fund is $1,905,261 or 6 %, The Water Fund is $1,904,738 or 6%, The Fire, Ambulance, etc. is $908,670 or 3%. The sewer, water and safety funds are independently taxed by the districts.
Arden called for a 25 percent salary reduction of the Town Board members who are paid $18,300 per year. Arden said that because the Town Board hired a Town Administrator a year ago, Town Board members lessened their workload. But Arden was questioned on why he didn't decrease the salaries of the Town Board during his two-year term, when only Arden took a 60 percent cut in the supervisor's salary. Joan Goldberg said the new Town Board should have the opportunity to review the salary structure of its members compared to other municipalities.
The newly elected Town Board member Barbara DiGiacinto says no one runs for the Town Board for the money, "It was not a motivation for me and certainly not for [newly elected Town Board member] Barry Reiter." It was determined that the new Town Board would consider imposing a salary cut upon themselves if deemed necessary.
Many residents who spoke at the public hearing for the budget at the December 11 Town Board meeting were concerned that according to the Town's Department heads, services (mostly in the Highway and Parks and Recreation Departments), would definitely be reduced if staff cuts were made or if the positions were eliminated and not filled since the Town's hiring freeze of the past several years. The 2013 budget indicates 105 full-time North Castle employees and 17 part-time employees with an additional eight unfilled but budgeted for positions in 2013. The 2014 approved budget allows for 2 new full-time employees of two police officers who have already been hired, and six existing, vacant positions: two laborers in the Highway Department, two laborers in the Sewer & Water Departments, and two employees in the Parks and Recreation Department. The Parks and Recreation Department have been understaffed and the new hires will be a recreation senior leader, and one parks grounds-man.
According to Cronin, there are fundamentally different approaches on how the Parks and Recreation Department and the Highway Department work can get done, "The town should consider every full-time position that we hire along with the significant long term and health care costs." Cronin suggested that the Town look at other ways to get the work done with part-time seasonal employment.
But the labor unions only permit part-time workers to work four consecutive months out of the year, and therefore, part-time workers are ineffective employees for the Highway Department because of the required training period needed to drive the department's trucks, says General Foreman Jaime Norris. The Highway Department is down to 18 employees from the high of 29 employees in 2008. In 1984, the Highway Department attended 80 miles of town roads versus the 94 miles of town roads today. That's a 17.5 percent increase in road mileage, with a 38 percent reduction in labor, says Town Administrator Joan Goldberg.
The budget expenditure includes $500,000 for road paving at the cost of $180,000 per mile. Also five new vehicles will be purchased this year: two new cars are budgeted for the Police Department; and three medium duty trucks; one truck will be purchased for the Highway Department, one truck for the Parks Department with a plow; and one new vehicle for the Sewer Department. The budget also includes $60,000 for technology with some new computers purchased, and a 1.5 to 3 percent increase in most department head's salaries.