Posted by: Dawn Powell | November 14, 2012

Putnam Valley – November 2012 Town Board

Thursday, November 8, Really Irregular Town Board Meeting

I was wondering about the rescheduling of the budget public hearings and the tax cap and the fire department contract public hearings.

This was Bill Zutt’s reply:

“NYS Town Law Sect.108 says the Budget Public Hearing must be held “on or before the Thursday following the general election”, that Notice must be published at least once in the Town’s Official Newspaper at least 5 days before the hearing, and that the hearing may be adjourned “from day to day”, but not beyond November 15th. (Emphasis Mine)”.[BZ-s]

“I believe the underscored language is significant as I’ve not seen it in the context of any other public hearing requirements.
-Bill”

My latest question on the noticing of public hearings for the budget:

Thanks for this information. Doesn’t adjournment refer to an open public hearing? Isn’t this law referring to a hearing that is held when noticed, and then adjourned to the next day? Wouldn’t it have been preferable to re-notice the hearing using the five day requirement?

Also, this law does not cover the fd contract public hearing which requires 10 days notice and does not include the Nov. 15 or the adjournment language. And the ambulance contract is also supposed to be subject to a public hearing.

Has any of this changed to accommodate the way you proceeded?

The unusual circumstances –
There was a storm last Wednesday, causing cancellation of the Town Board’s irregular meeting, and the 3 public hearings. Everything was rescheduled for the next night, another irregular practice. The law requires that the hearing on the budget be held by that night, but it also requires 5 days public notice. So I was wondering if the law had some provisions for the emergency rescheduling of the public hearings. It does allow for the scheduling of emergency meetings. Public hearings are a different thing. They require specific notice so that the public can be heard on certain types of changes, budgets, contracts with the fire department and ambulance corps, and overriding the tax cap, which requires a local law.

So when the public hearing on the budget could not be held, the adjournment provision does not mean that you can just postpone. It means that you can adjourn a hearing until the next day. It does have to be held by that Thursday by law, so perhaps that is controlling and you will get to comment tomorrow. What they did was so bizarre, they opened the hearing on Thursday, and then adjourned the meeting on a daily basis until Wednesday. What does that even mean? Huh?

I think that if you adjourn a public hearing from day to day, that would mean that you have to listen to public comment on each day.

They had to reopen because there were people present who wanted to talk about the Roaring Brook budget. Bob-O told them that it had already been discussed, but was reminded that the hearing was for the district budgets also. And like the district with which I have experience, Bob-O makes the district decisions without input from the people who actually pay attention to such things (some people do), and no one on the board pays much attention to any of it. There was a lot of hostility for no apparent reason.

On overriding the tax cap, the notice requirements seem to be the same as any local law, but they wanted to pass it, and it had to be sent to the state so that can override. Bob-O says that he doesn’t want to take $100k from fund balance, so instead of cutting $100K from the budget, he will just override. No wait, he didn’t say that. I did. It doesn’t seem like $100k is so much that they couldn’t cut it. Cutting their little raises won’t help much, but can’t they come up with anything else?

I don’t claim to be a tea party supporter like Bob-O. I don’t support their candidates or their ideas. I do think that government needs to be smaller and more efficient, and I had hoped that the economic crisis would have promoted that concept. It didn’t. But no one elected seems to think that trimming the budget is a better idea than either raiding the fund balance or overriding the tax cap. I believe that we need government to provide some services, but I also believe that this manner of budgeting is unsustainable.

The improperly noticed budget public hearing that may be adjourned day to day, will be irregularly opened tomorrow night, so you can have your say. They will leave the budget the same anyway, and override the tax cap, but I am all for expressing your opinions despite that. The fire department contract public hearing was closed without comment, due to the same odd set of circumstances. There is no doubt that the town would contract with the fire department, but we can always hope for more transparency. There is adequate time for a noticed public hearing.

Adopt cats. Buy bagels. Save sea turtles.

DP


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