Helsmoortel answers critics

Greg Helsmoortel SQThe last couple of weeks I have sat down to answer [Saugerties Republican Committee Chair Joseph] Roberti Jr.’s outrageous letters about me and current Town Board members and each time find it more and more difficult. He lies and stretches the truth on all issues to satisfy his desire to discredit me. For instance, the letter about the police consolidation. Ms. Myers did not enter “office with a deficit and facing over $1 million in new expenses due to the actions of her predecessor and the current Town Board.” This statement is not true. He says that he will have a series of letters in future weeks explaining this — should be interesting — and I will have letters defending myself in a professional and civil format.

The town did not lose the contribution by the village towards the police consolidation as he said. The agreement was up, there was nothing to lose, the agreement was done. There was no “hole in the budget.” “Since 2010 the town’s expenses for medical benefits, workers comp, social security and retirement increased by over $1 million,” Roberti said. Impossible, not true, cost of benefits were decreased for 2012 by the 2011 Town Board, a number Roberti throws out to scare people. Even if it was true, which it is not, how can the Town Board and I be blamed for that? We do not set Social Security, workers comp or retirement costs. His letter rambled on about savings and no savings, promised savings etc., all meant to confuse.

Let me briefly explain the purpose of the police consolidation. The police consolidation was planning for the future, being proactive. The village could not survive the future costs of the police department, as in a few years future. The village would have had to dissolve or hand over the police protection to the town, legally the town would have to provide the service, no questions asked. Turmoil would have followed; it took us two years of planning to have the seamless transfer we experienced. The two alternatives would not have allowed a planned smooth transition, which is what occurred. The village would also not have entered into the contract that provided the town with close to $400,000-plus in contribution to the consolidation and the state’s $160,000-plus contribution to the consolidation. The consolidation was done for the betterment of Saugerties, the future wellbeing of Saugerties. The state is encouraging consolidations and shared services state wide, monetary awards are being offered to assist the consolidations, hence the $160,000-plus we received. Saugerties has been a “poster child” on how we carried out the consolidation. Prior to leaving office I was a guest speaker about our consolidation at a New York State Association of Towns meeting and a guest panelist in Dutchess County at a Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress seminar on shared services/consolidations. We did it right and have been recognized for it. Police cost for two agencies before the consolidation $2.3 million, this year’s cost is $2.1 million.

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Greg Helsmoortel
Saugerties

Greg Helsmoortel served as Saugerties town supervisor from 1999-2011.

There are 9 comments

  1. Peter Karashay

    As a former Police Sergeant for the Town of Saugerties PD and now a retired detective from a very large Sheriffs Office here in Florida, the merger was the only way to go. Greg hit the nail on the head and it had to be done. Good job Greg, you were an excellent Town Supervisor !!

  2. Derek

    I’m trying to understand this a little better, so perhaps someone can explain it to me:

    “The village would have had to dissolve or hand over the police protection to the town, legally the town would have to provide the service, no questions asked”

    The only way that *I* can see that the Town PD would be legally obligated to provide protection to the Village is if the Village is legally part of the Town.

    If it *is* legally part of the Town, then the Town should have taxation authority over village residents.
    If it’s *not* legally part of the Town, then the Town PD should have no more legal obligation to provide coverage than they do to, say, Woodstock.

    Can someone explain this point a little better?

    1. admin

      The village is part of the town and village residents pay town taxes.

      If a police force is abolished, the next rung up has to take over. If Saugerties got rid of its current police force, the Sheriff would have to cover it. (In the old days, before there were three shifts, that’s what happened overnight.)

  3. Derek

    Well, hang on, then (in theory at least) the town can just tax the village for the add’l funds it needs to continue the transition, no? I mean, where’s the problem? Those folks should have seen their tax bills go down once the village passed along the savings from not having to pay the Village PD, right?

    I mean my understanding of the complaint here is that the “transition funds” that were contracted for stopped (according to the terms of the contract, taking this letter at face value). And, ok, that’s all well and good, but nothing stops the Town from simply levying that sum as an annual tax on Village residents, does it? And if so, what?

    1. admin

      Village taxpayers pay town and village taxes. So while their village taxes went down following the merger, their town taxes went up — but not disproportionately. The police department went from a “town outside the village” budget item to a “town and village” budget item. In 2010, town taxes for village residents went up by 42%. The $208,000 was above and beyond that.

      So the question would be: should village taxpayers pay more than town taxpayers for the single police department? It is interesting that no public official ever suggested the answer was yes, at least beyond the two years after the merger.

      1. Derek

        Well you could argue that if it costs more to provide Village residents police protection than it does town residents (by virtue of whatever metric you care to use, number of incidents/day, etc., etc.) then residents of the Village should, potentially, pay more than residents outside the Village.

        Otherwise, all the Village residents have done is get someone else (the Town residents) to subsidize their Village expenses, which isn’t really “morally right”. Town residents’ needs haven’t changed, their service level hasn’t improved, their “cost” hasn’t increased, but their tax bill *does*? Doesn’t seem entirely right.

        1. admin

          I don’t think at this point the town could raise taxes on village residents out of proportion to part of the budget they fund as town residents. (Village residents are also town residents.)

          If you had a town government that wanted to decrease the tax burden on town residents for police services, it might direct the police department to give the village less coverage. If it did that, it could reduce the size of the police force. If the village wanted the coverage back, it could form a special tax district.

          That $208,000 payment was there to assuage village fears that it would be shorted in under a single townwide department. But after two years, nobody was worried anymore, because both supervisors and both police chiefs have supported covering the village at the current level. They basically say the village is the center of Saugerties, it’s where the shops are, and it’s in the interest of Saugerties as a whole to maintain a police presence there and keep it safe. A pan-Saugerties spirit reigns on High Street. The Republican chairman’s dissent is the first I’ve heard of, though he assures me that my network is “village-centric” and there are many in the town who feel like the police merger was a raw deal.

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