Reducing the Tax Burden On Clarkstown Families and Preserving Their Quality of Life

Councilwoman Carey

Councilwoman Carey

To: The Editors Of Rockland Voice
From: Councilwoman Adrienne Carey
Subject: Reducing the Tax Burden On Clarkstown Families and Preserving Their Quality of Life

Wow! A zero percent (0%) property tax increase for Clarkstown next year! It almost doesn’t sound real, but as a member of the Town Council that just submitted the proposed budget I can thankfully say it’s true!

This zero percent property tax increase was accomplished by implementing a series of real cost saving measures adding up to $5 million this year alone. Even more importantly, it was done without selling off assets or raiding the Town’s reserve funds, two common practices of the past administration that had led to fiscal insolvency and two credit downgrades.

One of the main reasons I agreed to take on the responsibility of a position on the Town Council was the opportunity to affect this type of real change in the financial direction of the Town. My current and past jobs as a healthcare administrator have prepared me well to offer expertise in identifying and implementing efficiencies that keep costs down while maintaining, or even improving upon services provided. I was joining a team that was truly committed to its promise to bring about meaningful changes to the lives of many residents who are struggling to remain in Clarkstown due to one of the highest tax burdens in the nation.

I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but as you can see the results are already showing. I am beyond proud to say I am a part of a team that is actually saving my fellow taxpayers money while never sacrificing on quality. The formula is a simple one: to provide Clarkstown residents with a government that works hard and works smart and to look at every department to find the efficiencies that our taxpayers deserve.

Some highlights of the many efforts which I supported include:

Consolidation of Boards and Committees: Two committees with similar functions were combined into one in order to lower costs and to enhance services. This move reduced the number of people serving on those boards, and resulted in a reduction in salaries.

Reduction in town salaries: $1 million in savings resulted from a top-to-bottom evaluation of need for personnel. In some cases outgoing department heads were not replaced, while in others we achieved a consolidation of services. Further savings were realized by starting new hires at lower salary bases than outgoing employees. There will be an ongoing process of evaluating and balancing the Town’s personnel needs and costs.

Car policy changes: Much needed oversight was put in place to reduce town car usage. We reduced the number of employees with 24/7 access to vehicles from 36 cars to 3 cars while keeping an ongoing evaluation for need- as might be the case for some highway department officials during inclement weather.

Travel policy controls: A process to evaluate the need and expense for seminars and training is now in place. The Town will seek to determine if any necessary training may be acquired locally to restrict out-of-town travel and expenses, and Town Board approval will be required in many cases.

Police Department study: The Town contracted an outside audit to assess the needs and expenses of the police department, which ultimately resulted in a collaborative effort between the PBA, the Police Department and the Town Board to reduce spending by $2.7 million through changes that are fully supported by the CPD Administration and the Clarkstown PBA. Together, we achieved success in reducing spending without compromising public safety.

There is still much work to be done to repair the financial damage caused by the reckless overspending of the past administrators and to ease the resulting tax burden our residents and businesses are asked to carry. The greatest challenge the Town faces is to ensure it holds steady on the path to fiscal reform.

Still, there are some who would prefer to make this election about other issues and some who seek to return to the days of irresponsible government that we are finally beginning to put behind us. Not surprisingly, many of the people in these camps are the same people who benefited from the old status-quo.

Last November, the voters of Clarkstown passed a referendum to implement a ward system of representation in Clarkstown. Now that it has passed, the most important aspect of implementation is to make sure the lines are drawn fairly and logically. With that in mind, the decision was made to put this authority in the hands of the duly elected Town Council so that public input and accountability to the public could be better ensured in the end result. We will be holding public meetings allowing for the input of residents and there will be a clear and logical process to draw four simple and clear wards for Clarkstown.

Those who claim the Town Council decided to take on this responsibility in order to gerrymander lines in favor of the Republican Party will be proven wrong once the lines are drawn in a logical and fair manner that follows the guidelines and criteria that are established beforehand. Residents will be given the opportunity to weigh in with their suggestions and concerns during what will be a transparent and public process.  I am a Republican but I understand that given the demographics of Party affiliation in Clarkstown, these wards cannot be drawn in any manner to have a Republican majority in any of the proposed wards. Each of the four wards will contain a majority of Democrats. I am very comfortable with this outcome knowing that a change in mindset of the people of  Clarkstown is taking place where voters are supporting the person who, regardless of Party, will treat all of Clarkstown’s residents equally and provide special treatment to none.

I believe the people of Clarkstown are primarily deeply concerned with the issues of the Town’s financial well-being and our taxes. I did not get into politics to start a second career as a politician. I am here because I care deeply for this town and it’s important to have people in government who are committed to choosing what is right. Sometimes those choices will be popular, sometimes they won’t. I am currently running for Town Council to keep the position to which I was appointed earlier this year because I want to continue to affect meaningful, positive change and keep the town moving in the right direction.

We need elected officials who can stand firm and make those tough decisions based on what’s right. We must have oversight in all areas of town government to ensure that actions are taken in the best interest of our residents. I became more involved because I felt this has far too often been lacking in past administrations.

 I will continue to serve the people of Clarkstown with the following objectives and principles in mind:

  1. Continuing to find ways to reduce spending: We need to assess, consolidate and reduce spending while maintaining or improving on the high quality of services that our residents deserve.
  2. I am accountable: We need elected officials to take personal responsibility for making tough decisions that work in the best interest of the residents.
  3. Tax money belongs to the people: It is important to note that I am not managing “The Town’s” money; it is the taxpayers’ money. As a Town Council member, I am working hard to ensure that your tax dollars are spent wisely.

I grew up in Rockland County. I understand the challenges we face in the Town of Clarkstown. I wake up each day to the same struggles my neighbors face in wanting to keep our town beautiful and secure, yet affordable. I am a hard working mother who works full time, as does my husband, to provide a quality home and education to our four daughters. I do not want to leave the town that is home to my family because I am “priced out”. However, that fate will befall more and more families unless we continue to stem the tide of the overbearing tax burden that we carry.

This is why I decided to dig in and fight for what makes Clarkstown great. My pledge to the voters and residents of Clarkstown is this:

  1. I will continue to fight to improve our future by advocating for positive change.
  2. I will continue to work with department leaders and associations and together find ways to save money and lower taxes without sacrificing the quality of programs or services upon which we depend.
  3. I will continue to work alongside the taxpayers with an open and honest approach.
  4. I will be beholden to no one but the people of Clarkstown.
  5. I will have no agenda other than to Preserve Clarkstown and ensure it remains a great place to live and raise a family.

Again, the positive changes I have supported thus far have resulted in a 0% proposed property tax increase for 2017. Who can remember the last time we had no tax increase in Clarkstown?

Even though we have made tremendous strides in a short period of time, we must not rest on these accomplishments and I hope you give me the opportunity to build upon the great foundation we have created this year.

I believe we need to keep Clarkstown on the path to fiscal reform and with that objective in mind, I humbly ask for the support of the people of Clarkstown on Election Day, Tuesday, November 8th, 2016.

{Editorial Note: The views expressed in Letters to the Editor are the sole opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or position of Rockland Voice and its editorial staff.}

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