Woodstock incumbents field questions at forum

(Illustration by Bruce Ackerman)

(Illustration by Bruce Ackerman)

Signaling a formal start to the campaign season, Woodstock supervisor Jeremy Wilber and Town Board members Cathy Magarelli and Bill McKenna stated their cases for reelection at an August 19 forum that drew about two dozen residents, including acknowledged supporters of the three incumbents, to Town Hall.

Absent from the event were the office holders’ rivals on the ballot for the Democratic Party primary, which will take place on September 10. Supervisor candidates Lorin Rose and Terrie Rosenblum and Town Board hopeful Gary Kutcher declined an invitation to participate in the Town Hall forum, which was sponsored — and paid for, in the form of a rental fee for the facility — by the incumbents’ campaign organizations. Wilber, Magarelli, and McKenna support one another’s candidacies.

[All of the primary contestants are expected to participate in a September 3 “meet the candidates” event, presented by the Woodstock Democratic Committee, at the Community Center. The Woodstock Republican Committee will choose its local candidates at a caucus sometime before the November 5 general election. Thus far, former Zoning Board of Appeals chairman Howard Harris, who is seeking a seat on the Town Board, is the only Republican in the race.]

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In opening and closing statements the incumbents offered reasons why voters should grant them new terms, of two years for the supervisor and four years for the council members. Wilber, who served as supervisor from 2000 to 2007 before reclaiming the office in 2011, emphasized his stewardship of the town’s fiscal affairs. “I think that I have the firmest grasp of finances of all the (supervisorial) candidates,” he said.

Difficult budgetary decisions by the previous and current Town Board had enabled Woodstock to recover from a “serious collapse in revenue,” as evidenced by a fund balance that was practically nil when he took office but now amounts to $461,000, said Wilber. The supervisor added that the tax levy for the general and highway funds — the portion of the townwide levy for which the council is solely responsible — actually decreased in 2013, albeit by a mere $6,000, amid a total outlay of more than $5 million.

Wilber expressed confidence that the preliminary town budget for 2014, which he will present for the board’s consideration in the fall, will comply with the statewide cap on tax increases, even while providing a 3 percent raise to town employees, whose wages have remained effectively stagnant for three years. “Financial stability is very important for small towns like Woodstock. I feel very confident about Woodstock’s finances and its ability to uphold its values,” the supervisor said, adding that the town has retained a “superior-grade” bond rating.

 

Council members cite records

Magarelli, a retired teacher who is completing her first term on the board, pronounced herself proud of its accomplishments. The recent renovation of Town Hall had made the building cleaner and safer for employees and residents alike. With that project concluded, the councilwoman is promoting a plan for a comprehensive renovation of the Community Center, which would include an addition of up to 2,000 square feet. Magarelli is leading a drive to solicit private donations that would supplement available town funds and possible bonding for the project’s estimated cost of less than $1 million. With the public’s approval, construction could begin in about a year, said Magarelli, who added that she took pride in coordinating the successful development of the Woodstock Waterfall Park on Tannery Brook Road.

McKenna’s current term on the board is his second; he previously served from 2004 to 2007. Thanks to “great teamwork” on the Town Board and the fortitude of Woodstock residents, the town had survived “a rough couple of years,” said the councilman, alluding to the fiscal crisis that loomed before the last local election, requiring painful budget cuts.

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