November 19, 2012

In My Opinion: Plattsburgh Town Council focus explained


---- — Given recent efforts by certain concerned citizens to get their message and opinions out to the community, it is time that we help clarify some issues.

It is important to acknowledge that we have been living during a period that has presented a number of economic challenges to homeowners, business and government. Many find it difficult to meet financial obligations, compete in a global economy and survive with the ever-increasing cost of everything. Every day, cable news and local radio and TV broadcasts bring the economic picture into our life. Too often, this comes with the broadcaster’s view and spin on both the cause and the solution.

We would like to share a few facts about the Town of Plattsburgh:

1. The Town of Plattsburgh, unlike most municipalities, does not have a general tax that is levied on property owners.

2. The power of this Town Council is limited, and often the greatest burden property owners face is not within our power to change. We do not control school, county, fire-district, state or federal taxes.

3. Special-district taxes, such as lighting, highway, water and ambulance, are a part of our budget, but when compared to other municipalities in the North Country, they are much lower. For example, the average highway tax for 11 other towns in Clinton County that also have a townwide highway tax is $2.27 per $1,000 of assessed value. In the Town of Plattsburgh, it is 67 cents.

4. This Town Council has taken a progressive approach to our economic challenges with a focus on sustainability. This has been addressed in a number of ways, including reducing energy costs, consolidating resources, intermunicipal shared services, reorganizing departments, working to build our tax base, addressing employee benefits, accessing grants, etc.

5. The town is home to many new businesses creating hundreds of jobs. We have had a number of new commercial and industrial projects, making the Town of Plattsburgh an economic engine for the county while building our tax base to share in the cost of services for homeowners.

6. One of the most important reasons the Town of Plattsburgh has been so successful in attracting new business is that the town provides a quality environment for business, which supports a positive return on investment. Another is our excellent roads; quality water and wastewater facilities; professional Planning and Zoning Departments that are proactive and demanding in their standards but encouraging and cooperative with businesses; and first-class recreation and senior programs.

7. Allowing the infrastructure of any community to deteriorate is irresponsible and short-sighted. This council will not allow that to happen. 

8. It is true that the Town of Plattsburgh has some financial reserves, but these reserves are targeted and necessary to help maintain our infrastructure, programs and services. Prudent budgeting includes some reserve for unanticipated expenses. The amounts that have been publicly reported by certain individuals are inaccurate. In fact, auditors have advised that we increase our reserves.

9. As a town, we are always willing to listen to the concerns of our citizens; however, we will not compromise our principles to obtain a short-term political advantage. We will do everything in our power to see that the town moves forward in a responsible, progressive manner.

10. We have a responsibility to keep any tax levy under 2 percent. We have met that obligation for the past two years, and it is our goal to try to maintain that level of spending while making the investments and decisions that brings sustainability to the town.

It is important to know that each and every decision to expend taxpayer dollars is carefully considered by each member of this Town Council. As those who attend our meetings or watch them on television know, the pros and cons of each expenditure are carefully discussed, often in agonizing detail. Further, not all decisions are unanimous.

However, what is unanimous is the commitment of this council to make the necessary expenditures to sustain a quality of life our citizens deserve and maintain an infrastructure that enables businesses to thrive.

Kicking the can down the road is not an option that we choose to take.

Bernie Bassett is supervisor of the Town of Plattsburgh. The other Town Council members signing the letter are Deputy Supervisor Marty Mannix, Tom Wood, Paul Lamoy and Gerard Renadette.