James “Jimmy” Bruno lives in the Bishop’s Gate housing development, of which he’s an owner. He operates a construction business with his son-in-law that he calls “relatively quiet” these days. He said it wouldn’t interfere with the town supervisor’s job he is seeking this fall. Since Bishop’s Gate has sold all but a handful of lots, managing it will not be time-consuming, either, he said.
Jimmy Bruno is married to his wife Kathleen. He has a grown son, Joey, and a stepson, Christopher, a stepdaughter, Cara, and five grandchildren. He worked at IBM for 23 years, rising from the production line to a job as supervisor of an engineering department despite his lack of an engineering background. He has an associate’s degree in business administration from Ulster County Community College, and has taken courses in leadership at IBM.
Why did he want the supervisor’s job? “I love working with people, and I love helping people,” he said. “I don’t care what party you’re affiliated with, I’m here to help everybody as long as it’s legal and it’s the right thing to do for the town.”
Bruno is in his eighth year on the town board. He previously served on the planning board and chaired the committee that wrote the town’s master plan.
This seems to be the right time to run, Bruno said. “Greg [supervisor Greg Helsmoortel] is stepping down, and now’s the time.”
Despite their differences in party affiliation – Bruno is a Republican; Helsmoortel an Independence Party member – Bruno has great respect for the outgoing supervisor. “He keeps me informed of everything that’s going on,” Bruno said. “There are no secrets with Greg. If I could be a supervisor like him, that would be what I hope for.
“When I first met with Greg, he said the only thing I’m going to ask you [is] if you’re going to vote no, just let me know ahead of time. And out of respect I’ve always done that. Being the minority of the board, it makes a lot of sense to do that because if I tell him no ahead of time, we sit and we discuss things, and then he might see it my way.”
In general, Bruno said, he aims for a spirit of cohesiveness and cooperation.
Bruno said voters can count on his record of wanting to help business relocate to Saugerties.
“A big thing is I want to actively pursue bringing businesses to Saugerties,” Bruno said. Along Kings Highway and Winston Farm, he said, “We thought we had a really big one coming in, and Greg and I felt very good about it, but at the last minute they decided to go to a town near Westchester, I guess. Ironically, when Greg and I were meeting with an engineering firm, we mentioned it to them.”
It turned out the engineers had worked with the company, and that they had recommended Saugerties. “The engineer said the company was very upset with their new town because they didn’t get everything they were promised.”
Bruno said he hopes to bring development fees more into line with current prices. “Right now, for every development that comes into the Town of Saugerties, there’s a $1300 recreation fee per unit. We want to up that $800.” Of that, $1300 would continue to go to recreation, $400 to the fire company whose district the development is in, and $400 to the ambulance service.
“The demand for fire and ambulance services is increasing, and costs are increasing,” Bruno said. “I really believe this is the right thing to do. Believe me, I’m a developer, but the fire company and the ambulance are services you should never have to use, but if you do need them they should be the best possible.”
Bruno hopes to make the assessment process more transparent. “A more precise message as to why a person’s assessment is going up, say, from $300,000 to $325,000; instead of just getting a letter saying your assessment is going up, you should get a rationale as to why. It might save a lot of grief for the assessor, with people coming in to ask.”
Bruno would also like to hold the line on taxes. “This past cycle I was directly responsible – even Greg Helsmoortel told me I was responsible – for reducing the budget increase down from 5.5 percent down to 3.4 percent,” he said, “because on the afternoon before the night of the vote I went to the supervisor’s office and said, ‘Greg, I cannot support 5.5 percent.’ By that night they got it down to 3.4 percent.”
Bruno said taxes were a big issue. He noted that his son lives in town, “and I don’t want to see his taxes go up.” Grants can offset taxes, he said, and Saugerties has done well in getting them. “When people say the money is coming from our taxes, I point out that we would be paying the taxes either way, but it would be better for us to have the money than a different town.”
Bruno sees his own management style as collegial, and he strives for harmony. Officially the supervisor is the chief financial officer for the town. He has an influence in overseeing the day-to-day operations. Bruno noted that if he had a problem at IBM with an employee it would be discussed behind closed doors, and would not involve other employees.
One of Bruno’s goals is to remove all property taxes from elderly people who have lived most of their lives in Saugerties. The criteria for eligibility would include 65 years of age, residency in Saugerties for at least 25 or 30 years, and that the property must be the taxpayer’s primary residence. He checked with the Association of Towns to see if this arrangement would be legal, and they replied that he would have to explore that issue in greater depth. “I’m also thinking of forming a committee to assist in pursuing this,” he said.
While the town government has no control over school taxes, he would work with the school district to see whether a program such as he was proposing could be worked out.
Bruno said he would be more than happy to pay $100 or $150 a year to cover seniors’ taxes
One gift Bruno has given the town over the years is his massive Christmas display, with cutout elves, reindeer and of course Mr. and Mrs. Santa. He intended to continue this commitment for life, he said..
It is not always recognized that working on the town board is a tough job, Bruno said. “But every once in a while, someone does say thank you, and that makes it all worth it.”