Three Years After Being Warned Of Fiscal Disaster Supervisor Gromack Will Ask You To Re-elect Him In November. Why?

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“Let us not bankrupt our today by paying interest on the regrets of yesterday and by borrowing in advance the troubles of tomorrow.”

On election day this November it will be over three years since I wrote an open letter with the assistance of Nanuet business man, Jim Flynn, to Clarkstown’s Comptroller, Ed Duer, warning that Clarkstown was on the road to fiscal disaster.

Today Duer collects a salary of over $180,000 and sits on the town board, fiscally deaf as a doorknob and silent as a dormouse, while overseeing Clarkstown’s demise under the leadership of Supervisor Gromack and one of Gromack’s best friends, Conservative Party Chairman, Ed Lettre who also taps the taxpayers for the same amount as Duer.

Here are some excerpts from the article which appeared in New City Patch with commentary on the situation as of today. I am reminded that those who do not learn from history are destined to repeat it.

October 03, 2012

Dear Mr. Duer:

Ralph Washington Sockman was the senior pastor of Christ Church in New York City and Time magazine said that he was “generally acknowledged as the best Protestant preacher in the U.S.” He is reported as saying:

“Let us not bankrupt our today by paying interest on the regrets of yesterday and by borrowing in advance the troubles of tomorrow.”

This encapsulates what I see are the fiscal problems of both the County of Rockland and the Town of Clarkstown.

I note that Clarkstown has been running at a financial loss since 2008 (the first date audited financial statements are available on the Town’s website) and this is continuing in the present proposed budget for 2013 where an amount of $2 million is to be withdrawn from the Town’s Reserve Fund.

What is troubling is that Clarkstown is adopting deficit budgets every year. Clarkstown’s budget is not in balance! It is using the reserve fund to meet expenses.

(In 2015 the town was finally forced by Borelli and Hoehmann to adopt a balanced budget by cutting into the $10,000 per day overtime expenditures)

In 2009, Clarkstown negotiated the sale of its Solid Waste Transfer Station and established a QUOTE “Tax Stabilization Fund” with the proceeds which it added to its existing reserve fund of $7 Million. That fund is being depleted at an alarming rate.

The unfunded OPEB (Other than Pension post Employment Benefits) retirement and health insurance benefits of Clarkstown as of 2011 stand at $157 Million and are rising. That number was $133 Million in 2009 – up by $24 Million in three years. The unfunded vacation and sick time buyback is over $4 Million.

Clarkstown’s bonded debt is about $95 Million and there was another $23 Million authorized but not sold through 12/31/11. Add these two figures together and one is looking at a figure of over $118 Million in bond debt. Clarkstown continues to tout its AAA bond rating – its license to go into more debt.

(The depletion of that fund and the continued deficit spending led to the loss of Clarkstown’s AAA rating in July 2015. The bonded debt is at the level predicted. )

As a taxpayer I will be asked to pay a share of these bills. The County’s credit card is maxed out and no more charges can be put on it – the Town’s credit card is in the process of being maxed out.

The Palisades Center filed a challenge to its Town of Clarkstown and Clarkstown School District property tax assessments for the years 2009, 2010 and 2011 in Rockland County Supreme Court. The mall pays $23,477,500 in property taxes annually, of which $15,165,000 goes to Clarkstown schools, $1,332,500 to the county, $5,635,000 to the town and $1,345,000 for special fire, ambulance and sewer districts. If this case is lost disaster may follow.

(The case was lost and Clarkstown had to borrow the money it owed to the mall)

Mr. Duer, at the Town Board public meeting scheduled to ‘discuss’ the budget on Thursday, November 8th, 2012 may I suggest that you exchange seats with Town Attorney, Amy Mele, so you are available to whisper some fiscal sense into Supervisor Gromack’s ear? Watching the Board function on matters involving taxpayers’ dollars gives me the uncomfortable feeling that I am seeing a Shakespearean tragedy unfolding before my eyes. Hamlet sits in the center obfuscating with prolonged soliliquies on ‘matters oblique’, while you, wiley old adviser Polonius who knows the financial numbers, sit silently at the edge of the stage.

(I have always been at a loss to explain why Supervisor Gromack has his most important advisor, Duer, off in his right field and his least important advisor, Mele, as his ‘right hand woman’ constantly whispering ‘sweet nuthins’ in his ear.)

I believe your silence must end soon because Clarkstown is heading towards insolvency; the County is already there. Maybe you agree with me that if things continue the way they have in the past, the only option left for you will be to whisper into Gromack’s ear to take Clarkstown into bankruptcy?

There is a difference between insolvent and bankrupt. These two terms are used so interchangeably that I think people get confused and don’t realize that they actually refer to two different things. Insolvent is a word used to describe entities whose liabilities exceed their assets. Bankrupt/Bankruptcy, on the other hand, is a legal term that refers to entities that use the legal system in an attempt to get out of their state of insolvency or liquidate.

But I don’t need to tell you that, Ed, do I? I believe that Clarkstown is an entity imminently coming to the point of insolvency. Under Mr Gromacks leadership Clarkstown is racing towards insolvency. Here is the data …..

Year Net Assets Increase/Decrease
2008 $41,956,016
2009 $36,518,223 ($5,437,793)
2010 $31,154,546 ($5,363,677)
2011 $20,541,415 ($10,613,131)

As the trend shows it appears that Clarksown will bcome insolvent sometime in 2013 – sooner if the Town loses the Palisades Mall tax challenge.

(Today Clarkstown is insolvent)

Why is this happening? I believe it is because of poor fiscal management under the leadership of Supervisor Gromack that has occurred with your agreement. It appears that all of you lack the knowledge or the desire to properly fund Reserves. You are not putting the necessary money away to pay for all the expenses that you are incurring.

How much has the Town put away? Nothing! These are only a few items that you and the Town’s elected officials are not including properly in the annual budget. What you are doing is not illegal but in my opinion it is immoral.

Here is why …. In a recent article the Town is described as “proposing” a 6.2% Town Tax increase. Further, Gromack says he was “forced to use $2 million of its surplus (tax stabilization fund) while in the past few years the Town has “used only” $1.2 to $1.4 million.”

Mr. Duer, what does he mean by “forced”? Are you the one who is forcing him? The only thing that ‘forces’ politicians to avoid doing the ‘right’ thing is their fear of losing the next election. The right thing to do is to limit tax increases to about the rate of inflation, keep the Town’s reserve fund intact and solvent so it is available for Town emergency expenditures, and limit expenditures to what can reasonably be afforded. Every taxpayer has to do the same why not the Town of Clarkstown?

Let’s be honest about the facts ….. Mr Gromack is taking $2 million out of the Town’s ‘rainy day’ fund in his proposed budget so he can avoid raising taxes by another 1.6%. Because he is up for election next year (that was 2013 when he won re-election) he will not tell taxpayers that his effective tax rate is 9.0% – 6.2% that the Town Board insisted upon, 1.2% that he ‘saved’ with a school surcharge, and 1.6% that he ‘saved’ out of the Town’s reserve fund. That’s the true tax number for 2013, 9.0%, is it not, Mr. Duer? We may not pay it all this year but Supervisor Gromack will leave us holding the bag in future years when he leaves office.

(Today residents of Clarkstown live in the county with the second-highest property taxes in the whole of the United States.)

Mr Duer you have a small problem ….. You know very well where the costs that need to be cut are to be found. They are in bloated salaries and pensions. Your solution is to advise the Town Board that they need to consider lay-offs of those that are costing the most or “those with the mostest” can offer give-backs.

Further, why are you not objecting to the planting of flowers around the Town Hall and Main Street and paying for staff to water this horticultural profusion if the Town has an expense problem? While you are at it, would you mind telling me why we are paying County Legislator, Frank Sparaco, $75,000 per year to be a part-time telephone assistant to Highway Superintendent Ballard? Does he by any chance water Ballard’s plants?

(Sparaco was fired by the Town Board on a motion by Hoehmann, seconded by Hausner. He was then rehired by Ballard as his “confidential secretary” at a salary of $103,000 per year and then subsequently fired when arrested for illegal political activities and sent to jail.)

In 2008 Mr. Gromack referred to the police salaries as ‘obscene’ and blamed them on his predecessor.

(In 2014, six year later into Gromack’s term, Bill Bratton was sworn in as New York City’s top cop to oversee a force of 34,500. His salary was $205,180. In the same year the salary of Clarkstown’s top cop, Michael Sullivan, overseeing a force of only 165 officers was $271,377. Two of the officers he ‘oversaw’, Captain William Ovchinnikoff and Captain Robert Mahon also earned more than New York City’s top cop; they were paid $263,068 and $248,359 respectively. The police department racks up approximately $10,000 PER DAY in overtime charges.)

Now he will leave his successor with an insolvency and perhaps a bankruptcy problem if he is removed from office in November 2013. An appeal to the Clarkstown Republican Committee to cross-endorse him in 2013 may not succeed as the winds of change are in the air.

(Vinnie Reda was Head of the Republican Party in Rockland back then and with Conservative Party Chairman, Ed Lettre, he wished to keep Gromack in office. There was no Republican candidate permitted to run on the ticket opposing Gromack. After the 2013 election Reda was removed from office and is said by senior leaders of the Republican party to be under investigation to explain why thousands of dollars appear to be missing from the party’s books. Thankfully ‘the winds of change’ are blowing stronger in 2015 – However Lettre is still around to pull every trick out of a dog-eared book desperately trying to keep his friend, Supervisor Gromack, in office.)

Mr Duer, you should suggest to Supervisor Gromack that he offer the taxpayers several options to cut the proposed Town Tax increase in half. Or is it your intention not to do so and to depart in November 2013 with Supervisor Gromack? Because I assure you that with the fiscal situation you are presiding over, the next supervisor will remove you the day after the election if you don’t move from your present position, physically and fiscally, in the Town Board’s deliberations.

You see the present budget proposal’s immorality is summed up in the Journal News where you can read ……“While the town was looking at its budget, so was Teresa Mastropolo, 81, a Valley Cottage woman who lives with her husband, Carmine, 88, a World War II veteran. “We’ll have to tighten our belt because we live on a fixed income,” said Teresa Mastropolo, who confided that she and her husband had to tap their savings to pay their school-tax bill.”

Mr. Duer, did you or Supervisor Gromack have to tap YOUR savings to pay your tax bills?

Sincerely,
Michael N Hull

Three Years After Being Warned Of Fiscal Disaster Supervisor Gromack Will Ask You To Re-elect Him In November.  

Ask yourself why?

About Michael N. Hull

Michael N. Hull has lived in Rockland County for 35 years where he writes articles on philosophy and political affairs. Hull has written over 300 articles for New City Patch and Rockland Voice. He is presently a senior editor of the Facebook page Clarkstown: What They Don't Want You To Know and a senior editor of Rockland Voice.

About the Author
Michael N. Hull has lived in Rockland County for 35 years where he writes articles on philosophy and political affairs. Hull has written over 300 articles for New City Patch and Rockland Voice. He is presently a senior editor of the Facebook page Clarkstown: What They Don't Want You To Know and a senior editor of Rockland Voice.

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