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Cleaning up after my opponents…

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Occupy Town Hall

 Focus needs to be on controlling wasteful spending and patronage 

I attended the Town of Ossining’s 2012 Budget Work Session, last night.

Supervisor Catherine Borgia presided over what appeared to be her “last hurrah” of budget increases, gouging taxpayers with hidden budget lines and her unconventional accounting methodology.

Although no hard copies of the proposed budget under discussion were provided to the public attending last night’s work session, I was assured on camera by Supervisor Borgia that a link had been posted on the town website since Friday, October 28 at 4:00 PM. (I’m writing this on November 2 at 6:00 AM and despite numerous keyword searches of the town’s website, I cannot locate any link to information discussed last night.)

Noteworthy, the absence of any contextual budgeting information during this discussion that would normally precede any municipal budget discussion. No information was provided in aggregate on the prior year results, actual spend versus budgeted, projected contractual increases, or if the board had provided each department with any budget guidance, such as remaining below the 2% budget cap. In fact, there was no discussion devoted to budget objectives and long-term goals or any insistence to reduce spending below a certain level.

Instead, Supervisor Borgia queried each department head, individually, as Santa would when perusing a child’s wish list. Unresolved personnel issues laced each department discussion, as department heads plead leniency rather than deal with the reality of incorporating cost-saving restrictive personnel policies. Use of technology, digitizing data files and outsourcing specific services were referenced but not provided as firm action plans. For example, a considerable amount of discussion was dedicated to increasing staff to collect parking permit fees, but only a brief mention was made to “looking into” collecting fees and fines via Internet application, utilizing technology that has existed for years in many nearby municipalities.

Odd, was the inclusion of Dale Cemetery as a “departmental” expense, when the cemetery’s operation legally occurs under a 501(c)(13) organization. Supervisor Borgia, who led the majority of the Dale discussion despite the presence of its paid director, George Weeks, provided ample praise to Mr. Weeks for procuring cemetery plot sales. Unfortunately, Mr. Weeks had numerous requests to outspend his newly-found revenue, including carved wooden signs, $5,000 in fencing, conference fees and new vehicles and equipment. Councilman Tripodi pointed out that Dale’s large water bill for the previous year was paid as a direct expense of the town and had not been appropriately applied against Dale’s revenues. Supervisor Borgia was unable to provide accounting treatment.

Taxpayers, particularly those residing within the Village of Briarcliff, should take notice. Change is ahead and while Supervisor Borgia and the majority town board are unaware or uncaring now that our 2% tax cap exists, the reality, does. Accountability and compliance are no longer optional components of the budget process.

If the town of Ossining is to remain an equity partner with Briarcliff, it has to begin to stop treating all taxpayers residents as silent partners who mindlessly support the town’s spend-thrifty habits without question or proof.

In my view, the true intent of our town board’s 2012 budget process is to ignore economic realities and assume taxpayers will override the 2% tax cap. Incumbent Geoffrey Harter and Ms. Borgia are in for a rude awakening on November 8th. Taxpayers will be voting to occupy town hall and this year, finally – demanding actual results.

The writer is a Village of Briarcliff resident and a candidate for Ossining Town Council in November.

VIDEO: Peter Tripodi announcing April 29, 2011

Ossining Town Councilman Peter Tripodi announcing his run for Ossining Town Supervisor on April 29, 2011 with friends, family, and supporters surrounding him.