Press-Republican

October 14, 2013

In My Opinion: Eliminate one Jay town justice

By RANDALL DOUGLAS and the JAY TOWN COUNCIL
Press-Republican

---- — We encourage the residents of the Town of Jay to get out and vote “yes” from noon to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 16, to eliminate one of the two town-justice positions in the Town of Jay.

We feel that way for the following reasons:

▶ The Town of Jay previously operated with one competent justice at less cost with no problems.

▶ Average annual caseload can legitimately be handled by one justice.

▶ Cost savings in salary and annual training expenses.

▶ Decision was made by the Town Council strictly as a cost-saving measure during tough fiscal times, after thorough investigation of need by Town Council Personnel Committee Chairman Archie Depo, including a countywide salary survey of Essex County justices.

▶ We, as a Town Council, strive to always be open and transparent, and we firmly believe our record speaks for itself. This current Town Council advertises all its meeting times, places and agendas in all local media. Recordings of meetings are available for viewing on the access channel on Charter Communications and YouTube via the Town of Jay official website.

▶ Audience participation is offered twice during every Jay Town Council meeting, even though the council is not legally obligated to offer any time for audience comment.

▶ Please note that a town council has absolutely no control over any elected public official. Elected public officials create their own hours and answer directly to the public. It is illegal for a town council to direct any town justice regarding the hours/schedule they work.

▶ Please note the following fact: Conflict-of-interest cases, in respect to Jay Town Court, automatically go to neighboring towns at no cost to the Town of Jay.

▶ Another fact: Town of Jay justices currently hold court sessions on a rotating weekly basis (not sessions two nights per week); therefore, one justice holding court one night per week serves the same purpose.

▶ Town of Jay justices are currently paid a salary of $9,500 each annually, plus reimbursed for mandated training annually. The elimination of one justice position would provide a significant cost savings, easing the financial burden to the Town of Jay taxpayers.

▶ During recent budget sessions, which are open to the public, the salary proposed for one justice would be no more than $12,000 annually. Bottom line: This yields at least a savings to the taxpayers of $7,000 annually. Please note that in 2013 every $16,000 was 1 percent point on the tax levy.

▶ The current Town Council has provided a budget over the last nine years that average less than 1¾ percent annual increase even before the New York State Tax Cap Law.

In closing, we sincerely urge all to vote from noon to 8 p.m. Oct. 16 at your normal district polling place, the Amos and Julia Ward Theater or the Community Center.

This Town Council scrutinizes all spending of taxpayer dollars, and, in our opinion, this decision to eliminate one justice is a wise financial move.

Please vote yes to eliminate one justice on Oct. 16.

Randall T. Douglas is Jay town supervisor. The letter was also signed by Town Council members Amy Shalton, Archie Depo, Gerry Hall and Tom McDonald.