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Rotterdam budget talks divide board

Preliminary budget hearing leads with board’s disagreement

— In an unusual twist for a public hearing, the Rotterdam Town Board recently debated the 2012 budget amongst itself for around 40 minutes before the public even got a chance to speak.

The only resolution and sole purpose for the Rotterdam Town Board meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 2, was to hear comments from the public on the preliminary budget. Criticism of the budget was heard from Republican candidate hopefuls, who failed to secure any seats in the board the following week.

About half of the meeting, though, consisted of board members debating the reallocation of funds from special districts, a move that brings about $366,000 into the operating budget.

Reallocating funds was meant to provide a systematic change, Councilwoman Nicola DiLeva previously said, because funds would be reallocated to cover administrative costs in those districts. This shifting, among other changes, restored 16 positions cut from Supervisor Frank DelGallo’s tentative budget. DiLeva and Councilmen Wayne Calder and Matthew Martin proposed the reallocations.

But Deputy Supervisor Robert Godlewski questioned the legality of the three council members’ decision to reallocate funds.

“Where in municipal law does it say you can use the fund balances?” asked Godlewski. “That’s what we’re concerned about and the comptroller is concerned about it.”

Town Comptroller Anthony Tangarone said he trusted the board members, saying they sought legal counsel and found there to be no legal conflict.

“I’m relying on the statement that you legally reviewed this and that you are correct in your interpretation,” Tangarone said. “I’m sure there is substantial documentation for your action and I will need a copy of that … but why would I not trust your interpretation?”

DiLeva said Tangarone said the fund reallocation was legal on three separate occasions and didn’t hold any concerns previously.

“If you are saying that you are going on based on what I’m saying, why would you say yes to us?” DiLeva said. “I don’t mean to put you on the spot, but every time we come up here there is something put on our agenda that shouldn’t be there … we have all different kinds of information, you are our comptroller, you work for all five of us.”

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