New Paltz Village Board votes to make mayor’s position part-time; West threatens to resign

Jason West. (photo by Lauren Thomas)

Jason West. (photo by Lauren Thomas)

Routine budget talks in the Village of New Paltz quickly devolved into a heated conversation on April 17, when discussion turned to a potential $13,000 raise for the mayor. Mayor Jason West had proposed to raise the mayor’s salary to $48,000 a year, up from $35,000. Trustees instead voted to roll back their own raises — as well as docking West’s pay by $12,500.

The measure will make the mayor’s position part-time in the next fiscal year, bringing the salary to $22,500. The deputy mayor salary is down from $8,200 to $7,365. Individual trustees are down from $7,200 to $6,232.

Trustees said they voted to roll back the raise because West’s one year as a full-time mayor had failed to convince them anything more than a part-time mayor was needed.


“The job we increased to full-time with the understanding that the mayor would be full-time — and that the leadership and the job would be done,” Trustee Sally Rhoads said. “I’m sorry to say I don’t think it has been. That troubles me.”

Brian Kimbiz, her board colleague, agreed. “I don’t think anyone here — on the subject of your performance — gave you an unfair opportunity,” the village trustee said.

Behind the scenes at Village Hall this year, the mayor has ruffled feathers, burned bridges and turned allies into enemies. In January, Sally Rhoads — West’s former deputy mayor — stepped down as the second-in-command to rejoin the rank-and-file trustees because she couldn’t tolerate West. Ariana Basco ran for the board as a political ally and partner to West. That relationship has also soured since 2011.

Basco said she didn’t think anyone should be on the Village Board in pursuit of money.

“I don’t do this for the money. I do this for the public service,” she said. “It’s not my sole source of income — but it’s not meant to be.”

West said there would be “an enormous amount of work that’s going to slam to a halt, because I’m only working 20 hours a week now.” He added, “I think it’s a huge mistake.”

Village trustees said they felt West had displayed a harsh attitude toward them all year. They also said he’d been slow to respond to concerns from the public, often leaving his voicemail inbox full.

“There’s been a serious lack of follow through,” Basco said.

The mayor denied that he infrequently checked his messages or that he remained incommunicado when people were looking for him.

“If you think back and look back at the meetings we’ve had, the sheer variety and scale of ignorance with which this board understands how this village works is just staggering,” West said. “I think the problem is not that I have not been working full time — because I know I have. I know the hours I put in every week.

“I know the arguments I’ve had with each and every one of you about the basic functions of government, about who is doing what work. I know that none of you understand what the job of mayor entails.”

There are 3 comments

  1. Ed King

    I think the Village Trustees are a bunch of small-time local politicians who don’t actually understand the burden of and requirements of governance. I also don’t know of any town the size of New Paltz that only has a part-time mayor. And I think that the trustees probably share the same local-hand shake style that other towns that aren’t governed well experience, such as Town of Rochester. The “old boy” network is always feeling threatened around here – sadly. They fail to see an intelligent, energetic, young person (liberal) as a benefit to the community or the region. And West is absolutely right – Town and Village of New Paltz should be consolidated. It’s a no-brainer. And anyone who doesn’t see that oddly thinks that duplicity of roles and services is a good thing. And it isn’t. I think the Trustee ego’s need to be checked and they need to get on board. West stepped up as a smart, young person to run for mayor. He’s not doing any favors – its a job and a passion.

  2. George Airday

    So, does consolidation of the Town and the Village of New Paltz a good plan? Is West in support or opposed (as described in this article) of unifying their services? Ed, before taking a position should’t you clear up your facts? My perception is that the leadership squabbles over minor issues while important issues such as Ulster County Fairground development as a center for the community and recreation, the architectural integrity/future of our village, attracting and improving our tax base-these are “no-brainer” issues. My sense, is that the lust for power and control dominates and trumps other concerns. By penalizing and interfering with outdoor dining, excessive policing, we’re tolerating a hostile climate for our youth, our businesses and ourselves. There is a multitude of issues that we ought to address. West’s efforts have been petty, marginal and divisive. What a waste!

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