Wow! I visit the local paper of record this morning and I see a viewpoint (opinion letter) that blows me away. A letter filled with suspicion and guesses that are easily checked and disguised as public service by an elected official. A warning by someone the people trusted to speak on their behalf. Natasha - please do your best to stand up to bullies and liars. It takes incredible courage to speak truth to power. Here's what I read and how I replied.
In a recent Ithaca Journal Viewpoint a current Village of Dryden Trustee wrote the following:
"Having experience with the Village of Dryden budget and financial issues, I'm wondering: Where did the Town of Dryden taxpayers' money go? A few years ago, Dryden's current administration had about $5 million in reserves, far more than needed. Now, almost all of that reserve is gone, spent down.
It appears that our taxes have not increased much during those years. Could it be an illusion, created by our town supervisor and board members who have raided the piggy bank to make it look like they were doing their jobs while spending millions more than their revenues? And if they did have too many millions in reserve, why didn't they give them back to the taxpayers as state law requires?
The current Dryden administration and board should account for every penny of those millions in surplus that appear to be gone with the wind. They say the main issue in Dryden is protecting the town from drilling. Actually, the town may be in need of fiscal protection from them. But it is convenient to talk about drilling, drilling, drilling — anything that takes people's minds off of the incredible budget hole the current town leadership has dug for us."
"I know we have met a couple times and you seem like a person who represents the Village of Dryden based on facts, not ideology.
I'm not sure that you have a clear understanding of town finance. Your letter to the editor includes a few surprising statements for an elected official - for someone who is elected based on your word. Your comments are factually untrue and are not only an attack on the town supervisor, but also on the other elected town officials including Jason Leifer; Joe Solomon; myself; and your fellow Republican Steve Stelick.
- "almost all of that reserve is gone, spent down"
- "Raided the piggy bank"
- "Appear to be gone with the wind"
- "The incredible budget hole the current town leadership has dug for us"
The money that was appropriated was by and large appropriated into reserve funds. When a municipal body appropriates money from unexpended fund balance to a reserve account - it shows up in the town budget, but the money is not "spent". The money is still available and can be used by permissive referendum. It is unclear why an elected official like yourself would not take the time to learn and understand the facts.
How the town could have raided a piggy bank is beyond comprehension. Budgets are written, designed, planned, and passed in a slow, public, open, and method based process. Every penny is 100% accounted for - as legally required. No raid - no hole.
It is sad to see that you may have just been drinking the party-line Kool-Aid. Instead of doing the work to review the budget, the town finances, and reporting on the facts you made incorrect assumptions about budgets and policy that has been the standard for over 10 years. Your kind of fear based political discourse is one that shatters the belief in a democratic republic. I think you owe the people of Dryden and the town board an apology for your written statement. I’m embarrassed for you in the writing of your metaphor rich and fact poor letter.