Weekly Feature

2012-08-16 / Front Page

Some residents skeptical of axing elected position


Several residents expressed their opposition to a proposed local law that would eliminate the elected position of tax receiver during a public hearing held at Monday night’s Aurora Town Board meeting.

Prior to hearing public comments, the board presented a cost analysis of the proposal. Town Supervisor Jolene Jeffe said it was an attempt to clarify the proposal after residents raised some questions about it.

If voters were to pass the local law in November, the move would see the duties of the position move under the jurisdiction of the Town Clerk’s office, which would see the hiring of another full-time staffer to compensate. The office currently has one full-time deputy and one part-time one.

The position of town clerk is an elected one as well.

Jeffe did admit that, if the voters passed the proposal, an additional part-time employee may need to be hired during tax season.

“We’re not sure about that right now,” she said.

Even if that were the case, she continued, the town would still see savings of about $14,000.

“Is it a huge savings? No, it’s not,” she said. “But we’ve been trying to do a lot of little things in order to add up to a significant savings.”

“There isn’t any place we’re going to find a $100,000 savings,” said Councilwoman Sue Friess. “This is just one of the first places we found that we can create some savings.”

According to Jeffe, the minimum savings created by the local law would be between $14,000 and $17,000.

Jeffe also reiterated her belief that the move would allow residents a greater number of hours to discuss their taxes with town officials, since current Tax Receiver Barbara Halt is the only person in the department.

“The tax office would be open during any time Town Hall is open,” she said.

Town Hall is currently open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Town Clerk Martha Librock is not anticipated to be given a raise from her currently annual salary despite the additional job duties.

Several residents expressed their concerns about taking away an elected town position.

“Their ability to choose is still there because the town clerk is still an elected position,” Jeffe said.

Halt was the first to speak during the hearing.

She said the proposal was “misleading” because the Town Clerk’s office will soon see the retirement of a part-time employee who will not be replaced.

“The actual savings broken down on a house assessed at $100,000 using last year’s tax rate would be $5.48,” she said.

Due to the impending retirement, Halt still feels it is possible to achieve savings without abolishing her position.

“Having two elected officials, each one is more dedicated to their specific title,” she said.

Halt also said she’s already changed the hours of the tax office to 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. because of the upcoming school tax bill, and also due to the impending move of Town Hall into the Gleed building.

“Yes, we are the last first-class town in Erie County to abolish the position of tax receiver,” she said, “but we do have to be like everybody else?”

TownresidentCraigThrashersaidthetown should look into cutting entitlements before cutting an elected position. He gave a list of 22 budget items he felt could be construed as entitlements, mentioning bowling, golf, youth programs and adult recreation programs.

“Is it maybe too much to ask to look into cutting these quasi-entitlement programs before we start thinking about reorganizing government?” he asked.

After the public comments, Friess said the moving of the tax office into the Town Clerk’s office will result in greater efficiency while saving money at the same time.

Jeffe said that although she understands the government’s promising savings that residents don’t often see, she’s convinced that this move would result in some savings for town taxpayers.

Jeffe said the board plans to adopt the local law at its next regular meeting, scheduled for Aug. 27, before it’s placed on the November ballot.

She added that it will also be placed on the agenda at a future work session of the board in case any residents have further questions or concerns.

Councilman James Bach said this proposal was in no way reflective of Halt’s job performance. He feels she’s doing an excellent job.

If the move passes, Halt would still serve out the remainder of her elected term, which runs until the end of 2013.

email: paulo@beenews.com

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