15 Sep 2014
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Letter to Editor: What it Means to be a Garden City Trustee

Resident Nick Episcopia, current village trustee from the East, submitted the following letter to the editor.

Letter to Editor: What it Means to be a Garden City Trustee
I have been a village trustee from the East since 2005. I believe that serving the village as a trustee is both an honor and a most serious responsibility. I know, first hand, that there are no shortcuts to serving on the village board. We are elected to study and weigh information, debate issues, come to conclusions and formulate decisions based on what we believe is best for the village. That is not to say that everyone should, or will agree on all issues all the time, or that all of our decisions will be popular with everyone.

Proponents of the idea that people with absolutely no background or record of village service will bring “a breath of fresh air” and “new ideas” to the board are uninformed. They do not know that we continually explore ways to improve and institute new procedures and services, whether suggested by a fellow trustee, village staff or residents. However, as stewards of your tax dollars and as your local legislators, we are required to make decisions within the constraints of New York State Municipal Law, as well as with an eye to both long- and short-term effects on the village as a whole.

The job of a trustee is not simplistic. It entails, among other things, dealing with municipal finance, budget matters, labor negotiations, maintaining village services and facilities at a reasonable cost, and certain aspects of litigation, and quality of life issues for residents of all ages. There are no shortcuts here.

Over the past few years, we have worked with the Citizens Budget Advisory Committee, who, with knowledge of our village operations and an understanding of municipal budgeting, taxation and finance, and all line items in all parts of the budget, have introduced new ideas for cost-saving measures and staff reporting procedures, all of which we have explored, and many of which we have been able to adopt. The suggestion that we “should work with the CBRC” as if this is an innovative “new idea” have not attended village budget work sessions and do not know that we have kept village tax increases below the 2 percent tax cap even before it was mandated, with no interruption to village services while keeping our average tax increases below the average inflation rate for the last several years.

As trustees, Dennis Donnelly and John DeMaro have been an integral part of this process from the time they came on board. During their terms, both Dennis and John have been open to fair discussion and debate, clearly demonstrating that they do their homework, study all facets of issues and formulate decisions based on what they believe is best for the village.

They were able to do this as soon as they became trustees because they had prior experience of service to the residents through their POAs and learned about village operations and services. As presidents of their respective Property Owners’ Associations, not only did they attend every village board meeting and budget work session, they also went to meetings of various boards and commissions in a dedicated effort to educate themselves and develop an understanding of all aspects of our village government as well as the duties and time entailed in being a trustee. They are not one-issue candidates.

In these difficult economic times, the trustees’ duty to identify and prioritize the need for expenditures of your tax money is critical. However, with regard to St. Paul’s, there is currently a divide among the board. In December, 5 of us voted to reject the CSSP plan to build a “box within a box” in St. Paul’s, based on well documented information from forensic engineers who deemed the building a “firetrap,” that our own building department cannot issue a Certificate of Occupancy, and that the true cost is unknown but will be far greater than CSSP projections.

The idea that people who have not participated in their POA and have no knowledge of village government will “inspire a more collegial atmosphere” as trustee is ludicrous, and appears to be perpetuated by the opposing candidates in the upcoming election supported by members of the Committee to Save St. Paul’s. Other people who attend village board meetings even when St. Paul’s is not an agenda item know that while we have clearly been divided on the issue of St. Paul’s, our votes on other matters are often unanimous, if not 7-1 or 6-2.  A tie can be broken by the mayor.

This election isn’t just about good government, once again it’s about St. Paul’s.  The decision here is obvious and the facts speak for themselves. I have worked with Dennis Donnelly and John DeMaro. I believe they have earned your respect and trust. We need them to continue to work for us. On Jan. 29 please vote for Dennis Donnelly in the East and John DeMaro in Estates.

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