.

2012 Clarkstown State Of The Town Address

Town Supervisor Alex Gromack delivered his eighth State of the Town Address on Tuesday

 

This is the text of Supervisor Alex Gromack's 2012 State of the Town Address. 

 Thank you and good evening. 

First, let me extend my sincerest wish to all the residents of Clarkstown for health and happiness in the New Year. 

Once again I have the great privilege of presenting my eighth annual State of the Town Address. I humbly thank the residents of Clarkstown for their continuing support and confidence and pledge all my energy and efforts to keeping our Town a great place to live, work and raise a family. 

In this the most joyous time of the year, let us remember the men and women of our Armed Forces, especially those who served in Iraq who are now, thankfully returning to their families and those continuing to serve in Afghanistan and across the world for their sacrifices on our behalf. We hold all of them close in our thoughts and pray for their safe and quick return to their families. 

As many of you know, our Town currently provides the maximum property tax exemption for veterans permitted under state law. Nonetheless I think our Town should acknowledge the sacrifices made by our Clarkstown residents who have served in the War against Terrorism. 

The Town Board and I, although we are aware that our action will never fully compensate for their sacrifices, will be directing our Town's Recreation and Parks Department to ensure that all troops returning from a post 9/11 combat zone and their immediate families will be entitled to a free pass to all Clarkstown pools. This program mirrors our current 'free pool pass' program being offered to Clarkstown residents who volunteer for our ambulance, fire departments and auxiliary police. 

As we reflect on the past year, on a National level, we have again experienced a year where the economy continued to struggle, unemployment remained at high and unacceptable levels, the deficit climbed and our Federal Government seems unable to move beyond finger pointing long enough to put any real solutions in place. 

On a State level our Governor, Andrew Cuomo is working hard to bring some sense of fiscal reality to government, making hard choices and acting in a deliberate and forceful way to reverse the mistakes of the past and set a clear course for the future. 

On the local level, our county faces a serious and unparalleled fiscal crisis that will result in severe service cuts while significantly raising property taxes, sales taxes and municipal debt through the issuance of bonds to meet its financial obligations. 

All these factors, which are for the most part beyond the control of this and every other Town nevertheless, have a direct impact on our Town and the 85,000 people who call Clarkstown home.

I am proud to share with you tonight that Clarkstown is in very good shape. Our Town is healthy, financially sound, vibrant and growing. 

Financially, we maintained our Triple AAA bond rating, the highest municipal rating possible. Our property tax rate demonstrated our continuing commitment to stabilize taxes by having a 0% budget in 2011 and a 0.4% increase in 2012. Those figures represent the lowest tax numbers in decades. We have a healthy tax stabilization fund in excess of $15 million dollars and over the last several years have saved over $10 million in operating expenses and personnel costs. 

Since 2005, our Town has received over $30 million in grants from the Federal, State and County governments further reducing the burden on our property owners. 

We continue consolidating Town Government services by combining the Town Clerk and Receiver of Taxes office which was approved by the voters in November 2011. That consolidation will save us approximately $500,000 a year. 

This year we will be looking at consolidating the Highway, Mini-Trans and Town garage which will produce even more savings for our tax payers. 

We have, through the hard work and dedication of my fellow colleagues on the Town Board, our department heads, our CSEA employees, and our Police, managed to reduce the costs of Town Government without cutting the heart out of our services or our communities. 

As a result of these efforts, our Town remains the fifth safest town in the nation and among the one hundred best places to live according to CNN Money magazine. 

We will continue cutting costs, responsibly managing our assets, monitoring our expenses, seeking out and securing grants and protecting our quality of life, or in a few words doing better with less, because that is what I pledged in 2005 and that is what I and the Town Board pledge again tonight. 

Our Town is vibrant. 

We continue revitalizing our downtowns making them the centers of our hamlets and communities. 

The current revitalization of New City continues on schedule and when completed will serve as a model in making Downtowns pedestrian friendly, attractive and the centers of our communities. 

We have completed 125 out of 150 flood prevention projects that are on our list, with two major projects in Central Nyack and Valley Cottage on track for completion in 2012. 

We recently received the coveted Pace University Land Use Law Center's Founders Award in recognition of our completed Comprehensive Plan. According to their website, and I quote, “The spirit in which the Town of Clarkstown approached and implemented its Comprehensive Plan is the type of community planning that we would like to highlight and celebrate”. 

We have protected 205 acres of Open Space that are and always will be available to families for hiking, bird watching and the simple but valuable enjoyment of nature. In addition to renovating many of our recreational facilities, we redesigned the Fireman Kevin Landau Park in New City, created a Stay Fit Senior Program, developed inclusive recreational programs for developmentally challenged children, built a synthetic ice skating rink in Congers Park and we are constructing a walking trail around Congers Lake. 

The Town Board and I are committed to ensuring that our Town's environment, natural beauty and recreational opportunities we leave to our children will be at least as good if not better than what we have been privileged to enjoy. 

Our Town is growing. 

In the last three years our Planning Board has reviewed over one million four hundred thousand square feet of commercial and industrial site plans including the exciting redevelopment plans for the Nanuet Mall. Some of the completed projects include the New City Stop and Shop, Lowes Home Improvement Center in Nanuet, Kohl's Industrial Park in Congers, Cambridge University Press in West Nyack, Brega Bus Maintenance and Depot in Valley Cottage, Landmark Corporate Park in New City, Clarkstown Executive Park in Valley Cottage and United Structural Steel in Congers. 

In addition to these commercial projects which balance the property tax burden among residential and commercial properties, we are a leader in responding to the residential needs of our ever growing senior population. 

Through our innovative Active Adult Residence Floating Zone we have approved the construction of 800 residential units for seniors 55 and older. There are currently 2 Active Adult Residence (AAR) projects in front of the Planning Board in addition to the Hygena Lake Senior Citizen Complex which will provide a total of 106 senior citizen units to the already existing housing stock in the Town and the recently completed Eden Park in West Nyack. 

These highlights are just part of the story of our Towns' success and strength. I would ask that you take some time to review the Accomplishment Section of this address for a more comprehensive list of what your Town has accomplished this year. 

Before speaking about two topics that I think require specific action and review this year, I want to take a few minutes to make it clear that the achievements I have spoken of tonight were not the result of any single person's actions.

So let me say a few words and give credit where credit is due: 

Residents and business owners from across the Town volunteer their time to various committees to help us identify needed services and programs thus improving the Town’s operations. Others serve on our advisory boards. 

Our Town employees come here every day to make government work. They are the face of Town Government. They are the face of Clarkstown. 

Our Department Heads, who despite tighter budgets year after year, remain committed to managing the delivery of quality services and programs to our residents. 

Our Highway Department employees who have worked tirelessly day and night to remove the debris and damage resulting from the recent storms. 

Our Police Department administrators and officers, who are always true to their responsibility to provide courteous, professional and effective community policing for our residents and businesses keeping us and our Town safe. 

This year, they will continue that commitment as Chief Sullivan and his team initiate ‘Ready Clarkstown’ a new program designed to revamp our emergency notification system using a multi media communication plan to notify residents of emergencies and enhance our public awareness of preventative procedures. We can not and will not solely depend on our local media or the Rockland County government AM radio station in keeping our residents informed before, during and after an emergency. 

My friends and Town Board colleagues Shirley Lasker, Frank Borelli, George Hoehmann and Stephanie Hausner, I thank them for their continued support and collaboration on behalf of our residents. 

Our other Elected Officials, Highway Superintendent Wayne Ballard, Receiver of Taxes Loretta Raimone, and Judges Scott Ugell, Craig Johns, Howard Gerber, and Rolf Thorsen who continue to serve our residents with distinction. 

I want to congratulate our newly elected Town Clerk Justin Sweet and also share my best wishes for our re-elected District Attorney Tom Zugibe and our new Sheriff Lou Falco as well as our new Family Court Judge Sherri Eisenpress. And there must be a cooperative and working partnership with our county government and I look forward to working with our County Executive, our County Legislative Chairwoman Harriet Cornell and all our County Legislators in that endeavor. 

I thank State Senator David Carlucci and NYS Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski for their continued and consistent efforts on the State level to represent the interests of our Town and our 29,000 families as well as our Federal Officials U.S. Senators Chuck Schumer, Kirsten Gillibrand and Congress members Eliot Engel and Nita Lowey. 

All of these people are partners in Clarkstown’s progress and bright promise. 

While we can look back with pride, our real job is to look ahead and continue to take responsible and prudent actions to protect and enhance our quality of life. 

It is that spirit that I want to share two initiatives for 2012. 

Under State law, the Public Service Commission was created to keep our public utilities accountable and financially responsible. In truth, however, while many of the PSC staff may be well meaning, the Commissioners act more like the Wizard of OZ. 

When we ask the PSC for more accountability from O&R or United Water or the telephone or cable companies, it seems we get more inaction rather than action. When we ask them to deny the ever present rate hike requests we get riddles instead of relief. 

It is infuriating to note, even in light of the dismal failures in accountability, information sharing and response of O&R during the recent storms, O&R has applied for and will most likely get a rate increase that will exceed the 2% tax cap that municipalities have to live with. 

It is clear to me that our Town and municipalities across our state need a Public Service Commission that will go to bat for us. Unlike the Wizard of OZ who hides behind a curtain we need a Commission which is in clear view...a commission in Albany which will be directly answerable to the people of New York. 

If New Yorkers can be entrusted to elect who will lead our state, our counties, cities, towns and villages, who will sit as Judges in our courts, who will represent us in our legislative bodies we can just as effectively choose whom we want to represent us as Commissioners on the PSC. 

I am therefore tonight, and through an earlier letter, requesting Clarkstown's State Representatives to support Assembly Bill # A7174 and a companion Senate Bill calling for the establishment of election districts in the State of New York and the popular election of PSC commissioners from each of those election districts. 

It is time to truly make the Public Service Commission, the Public's Service Commission. 

My second initiative will be to review the Town’s current charter. 

For years now the Town Board and I have been aggressively pursuing a more equitable distribution of the sales tax revenue collected by the County of Rockland. I believe between 65% and 70% of all County sales taxes are collected in the Town of Clarkstown. In 2011 the County of Rockland budgeted $175 million dollars in County sales tax, of which the Town of Clarkstown only received $2.8 million dollars or 1.6% of the total collected by the County. This is simply not a fair and equitable distribution of the sales tax. 

Of even more pressing concern, again in light of the seemingly dysfunctional state of County finances are the projected and disastrous cuts in County services. 

So, in an almost perfect storm scenario we see increases in County property taxes of 30%, a proposed increase in county sales taxes, increases in the county mortgage tax, a new county hotel/motel tax, a new county real estate tax and a new county E911 cell phone tax accompanied by substantial and unprecedented cuts or eliminations of County services or worse, transferring costs for programs from the County to the Town to pay for. 

Those tax increases and service cuts will have severe and negative impacts on the very quality of life we have worked to enhance and protect for Clarkstown residents. 

The question before us is then. What would be the benefit, if any, if Clarkstown changed its charter from a Town to a city permitting us to collect sales tax and significantly reducing our town property tax. 

This is not a new question but it is a question that has never been seriously addressed and should be addressed now. 

I propose the creation of a select committee to conduct a comprehensive review of the feasibility, economic impact and practical implication of what this change would mean. 

As a City we could collect our own sales tax. 

Let me make this perfectly clear so there is no misinterpretation of this initiative. 

Any such change, if it were to take place would require an exhaustive review of the benefits versus the drawbacks of such a charter change. In addition, from the first step to the last we would ensure that our Town residents understood what such a change would mean to them through a public outreach and informational process similar to that which was used during our Comprehensive Planning process. 

Finally, if the comprehensive review of the feasibility of such a change suggested that this charter change would not reduce the net taxes paid by the Clarkstown property taxpayers or not provide the services required and expected by our residents the initiative would simply be abandoned. 

I am sure that before I finish this address, which will be shortly, critics will already be attacking both initiatives. 

They will say that the state hasn't approved a new city charter in 60 years and that trying to make the PSC more accountable is like trying to change the stripes on a zebra.

However, we should not be afraid to ask the questions or study the issues. Can we do something better? Let’s find out. 

I take some comfort in remembering that the only way to escape criticism is to say nothing, do nothing and be nothing. 

If our Founding Fathers had heeded the advice of the naysayers, July fourth would be nothing more than just a date on the calendar and tea would still be our national beverage. 

What distinguishes a dream from reality is the leadership and the action to make that dream a reality. 

Let’s choose action! 

I promised in 2005 that as Supervisor, I would do all that I could to make and keep Clarkstown a great place to live, work and raise a family. 

I am humbled by the fact that the people of my Town have reelected me as their Supervisor for five separate terms. It is proof that as a Town we can and will work together to achieve what is best for us, our children and our families. 

I am continuously and repeatedly impressed with the energy and commitment of our residents. They are hard working, educated and family oriented. They want the best for their children and their families. 

They understand the value of being part of a community and the need to contribute back to that community. 

Tonight I renew my pledge that I will work as hard as I can to continue earning your support and confidence. 

Thank you. God bless and good night.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mike Hirsch January 04, 2012 at 03:17 AM
I decided not to attend tonight's meeting because I was afraid I would throw up.
Mike Hirsch January 04, 2012 at 03:19 AM
I couldn't even read Alex's speech for fear of having a brain seizure.
Mike Hirsch January 04, 2012 at 03:45 AM
I will definitely get drunk if we ever succeed in ridding our town of our political parasites. I'll even buy you a drink or two.
Lance Dugby January 04, 2012 at 04:00 AM
SOON WE WILL HAVE A TEN PERCENT SALES TAX WHICH WILL SEND EVEN MORE SHOPPERS TO NJ. STUFF IT ALEX. HOW ABOUT A TAX REDUCTION INSTEAD OF ANOTHER TAX INCREASE?
Scott Walters January 04, 2012 at 05:04 AM
Grom'HACK' is sliding down A VERY SLIPPERY SLOPE!!! But would we expect anything less? Shame on those who voted for him...but of course, they have NO SHAME...
BenRound January 04, 2012 at 05:13 AM
I would be very interested to learn how a city charter could affect the current system. Are you all indicating you don't see how clarkstown could finally receive the tax money that Rockland government currently sucks out of the town to the tune of $100 million per year??
beverlybrooks January 04, 2012 at 08:51 AM
The tax settlement that a taxpayer qualifies through "Free Tax Settlement" for is dependent upon their unique financial situation. The IRS prefers individuals to pay their taxes owed in full, but they will make exceptions for certain circumstances.
Maureen January 04, 2012 at 11:43 AM
Mike Hirsh:  In my book you are losing credibility when you write that you didn't attend because you might 'throw up' and you couldn't read the speech for fear of a 'brain seizure'.  These types of pointless, trivial comments destroy the cause for which you are struggling. It strikes me that the reason you didn't go to the meeting was simple laziness? As to Mr. Gromack's speech he has a number of critical weaknesses which we are failing to properly exploit. As  I wrote in a comment on Tuesday he has let salaries run amok with raises for Epstein of 16,7%, Lettre 11.1%, Lasker 23.2%, Duer 7.5% and Maloney 17.1% for example while those of us living on Social Security received no raise and have just been handed a Town Tax bill increased by nearly 6%.   Mr. Gromack now proposes a shell game with his 'City' idea.  He proposes taking money from Peter to pay Paul when both Peter and Paul have spent themselves into financial oblivion.  And he will probably hire a consulting firm at our expense to run this shell game out to the next election! No matter how he thinks he can shuffle the deck both Peter and Paul will simply raise our taxes until we throw them out of office at the Town, County, State, and Federal level and take back our pockets and our children's future.   So Mike are you going to lead or am I to assume that neither your stomach nor your brain are up to it?
Lance Dugby January 04, 2012 at 12:28 PM
The Town blames the County. The County blames the State. The State blames the Federal Government. The cost of ALL government is out of control but if this Town of Clarkstown NY has the ability to pay these aggregious salaries to these people and others taxes. It means the Town under Gromack has too much money and it should not be looking for new sources. When a patrol police officer in the Town makes $150-160,000 a year working 4 days a week with 81 days off EVERY YEAR, and failed business owners are put on the payroll at salaries approaching $170,000, you have TOO MUCH MONEY, Mr. Gromack.
Lance Dugby January 04, 2012 at 12:33 PM
Gromack has a spending problem. He does not have a revenue problem. Which one of his campaign contributes will get the assignment for this "study" ?
Michael N. Hull January 04, 2012 at 01:10 PM
 Mr Gromack says: <<<<if the review  suggested this change would not reduce taxes paid by Clarkstown taxpayers the initiative would be abandoned.  I am sure that critics will attack both initiatives. They will say that the state hasn't approved a city charter in 60 years. What distinguishes a dream from reality is the leadership and the action to make that dream a reality. If our Founding Fathers had heeded the advice of naysayers,  tea would still be our national beverage>>> Maureen you are correct and even Mr Gromack has given us your outcome to his dream .... it will be abandoned because the State will not approve it. Mr. Gromack doesn't dream, he fantasizes like the Queen in Lewis Carroll's 'Through the Looking Glass': 'I can't believe that!' said Alice. 'Can't you?' the Queen said in a pitying tone. 'Try again: draw a long breath, and shut your eyes.' Alice laughed. 'There's no use trying,' she said 'one can't believe impossible things.' 'I daresay you haven't had much practice,' said the Queen. 'When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.' While Mr Gromack continues to dream I will go and enjoy a cup of tea with my breakfast.
Mike Hirsch January 04, 2012 at 01:17 PM
Good point Maureen. I've been fighting this fight for close to three years now and get tired of banging my head against the wall every now and then. I'm not perfect and have a life separate from my current battle with our corrupt local political establishment. Sometimes we just need to take a break and laugh.
BenRound January 04, 2012 at 01:21 PM
I don't know why I should be surprised, but I don't think what Gromack proposed is being understood. Clarkstown is the hub of Rockland. It iis used and abused by County government in many ways. A city charter would provide autonomy and prevent this town from supplementing, or sustaining, the rest of this county. The sales tax collected in Clarkstown funds 70% of Rockland government, which is broken and inept. A city charter would stop that money from going to county coffers and would be used to fund the "city". It's not a new tax on top of the existing sales tax. Hey, it could even be lowered to attract shoppers. It's worth real discussion.
Bard of Bardonia January 04, 2012 at 01:39 PM
BenRound Rockland County is a shell covering the shells that are Clarkstown, Orangetown etc. That is why Gromack is playing a "shell game". Next he may propose a Ponzi scheme if the shell game doesn't fly.
F*** January 04, 2012 at 03:34 PM
The New Square population bomb is quietly heading our way.
BenRound January 04, 2012 at 03:41 PM
Sorry Bard, I disagree. The county created this massive government in in the 90's. The distribution of revenue is completely backwards and those responsible for its oversight have no interest in anything other than gerrymandering their districts and approving every budget they never read. The board of supervisors used to run Rockland government prior to the creation of the county executive position. A county executive can ONLY be concerned with his/her government body and it's inevitable expansion, aka waste and patronage. That's what we have now. I say give the charter review a shot. If the numbers and the prospect of local control add up, I say demand it. Rockland is in ruin from reckless politicians and a burgeoning special interest group in Ramapo ( with the blessing of st.lawrence) would you not at least want to explore the feasibility of controlling the insane amount of public assistance your sales tax charges and property taxes go to? I do.
Bard of Bardonia January 04, 2012 at 04:03 PM
BenRound, disagreement is welcomed and we can all learn from thoughtful consideration of points others make in disagreement. I think Ralph Sabatini who ran against Gromack and stripped him of 30% of the vote could best give an answer from a business perspective that would help both of us. I think you and I are in basic agreement but from my POV Gromack is part of the 'reckless politicians'. I think Ralph reads Patch and if so I would invite him to comment on what he would have done had he been elected. I'm sure we also have people with business acumen reading these posts so I invite them to chip it too.
Maureen January 04, 2012 at 04:16 PM
Mike I appreciate your ability to accept critique positively and objectively! Carry on the good fight and remember that you are on an exponential growth curve. Things do not seem to be moving in the early stages but then they rapidly accelerate into their conclusion. The residents of Clarkstown are becoming educated. One, then two, then four, then eight and so on. You have two years to keep the message consistent and keep on the points of Gromack's weaknesses. I may hammer you back on to a productive track but I'm on that track with you and pushing you along!
Mike Hirsch January 04, 2012 at 04:36 PM
Thank you Maureen. While I may have been the first one to stand up in opposition to the political corruption in our town, please don't look at me as the leader. WE ALL NEED TO BE LEADERS. If you haven't checked out our website yet, please do, and if you like what we've been doing these past few years, let me know, and I'll invite you to our next steering committee meeting to see if you want to take a more active role. www.clarkstowntaxpayers.com
Scott Walters January 04, 2012 at 06:39 PM
The point is even simpler than all of the above. Grom'hack' wants to convert Clarkstown to a 'city' so as to collect sales tax revenues. He wants to look like the knight in shining armor when we all will pony up for items bought in Clarkstown. Instead of reducing property taxes, he will have BOTH a sales tax AND a property tax, and I wil have to then change my name to BEN DOVER! We should have gotten rid of this clown before. Now he is set to reek damage above and beyond even what BHO can do tot he country. Now I have to assess whether or not to expand my home or move out. IT IS THAT SERIOUS, people.
Bard of Bardonia January 04, 2012 at 06:40 PM
Mike ask Dr. Hull to help you. http://nanuet.patch.com/articles/clarkstown-s-tax-collector-calls-her-geese
Lance Dugby January 04, 2012 at 11:05 PM
Ben if the Town takes away sales tax money from the County the County will just find other ways to tax us. NEVER GIVE ANY POLITICIAN MORE MONEY. Imagine how much Lettre and Epstein will make with all this new sled tax revenue.
Lance Dugby January 04, 2012 at 11:06 PM
You are spot on. These parasites are running the County.,
Mike Hirsch January 05, 2012 at 03:23 PM
This is a ridiculous proposal by Gromack which has no chance of being enacted and has been put forth solely for the headlines. The problem in Clarkstown is on the spending side, not on the revenue side. He should spend his time cutting expenses (starting with the poliical patronage jobs, and moving on to the absurd CSEA and PBA contracts), rather than on wasting his time, and our money, on this "study"
BenRound January 05, 2012 at 04:06 PM
@ Hirsch. That is your opinion, not mine.

Boards

More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something