Rotterdam’s fiscal woes were a recurring talking point among candidates at a recent forum, as they tried to explain to voters why they’re the best choice to lead the town.
The Schenectady County League of Women Voters held a Rotterdam candidate forum at the Rotterdam Public Library on Tuesday, Oct. 18, with standing room only as members of the public gathered.
The town supervisor candidates preceded the Town Board hopefuls and set a tone of fiscal responsibility in the town. Democrat Harry Buffardi, Republican Brian McGarry and incumbent Frank DelGallo — running on his Rotterdam First Party ballot line — held a civil debate.
Frank DelGallo stressed his lack of ties to any major party, from which he was dropped by town Democrats, and said he learned while “on the job.” DelGallo was elected two years ago with the support of Democrats.
“I never expected to win supervisor, but I did and I think I did a great job,” DelGallo said.
With a flurry of questions wrapped into one, candidates were asked what experience they had working on a budget, what proposals they had to save the town money and where they stand on consolidation.
Buffardi took first shot and said his 30 years in administrative duties at the Schenectady County Sheriff’s Department has prepared him for managing budgets. He said cost savings could be met in different ways than in DelGallo’s proposed 2012 budget, which holds 13 layoffs. He said changes should be spread out over time and not all in one year.
“I think there is a better form of government in running mean and lean and that we can certainly provide better representation to the taxpayers and efficiency in government would help us in that regard,” Buffardi said.
DelGallo said fund balance dependency has to end sooner rather than later, because the town is running close to depleting its reserves. DelGallo said one department alone costs $8 million with others costing $6 to $7 million to run.
“There is no way, the way we are going, it is ever going to work. We need to cut costs somewhere,” DelGallo said. “If we don’t cut taxes, cut services, stop taking from the fund balance, stop raising taxes, we are never going to make it.”
McGarry said he would look into adopting a plan to have department heads and the supervisor come together on how to achieve cost savings and set a tone for fiscal responsibility in town government and services.
“The supervisor’s job, it seems to me, is to set a global tone of fiscal conservatism and then seek out the experts in their field,” McGarry said.
As far as consolidation, McGarry said he would have to look over any proposal to make sure efficiency and cost savings would be achieved.
During closing statements, McGarry said some of his supporters accuse him of being “too humble,” but he is always struck by residents’ inability to cover the basics. He said controlling costs in the town would be his main focus.
DelGallo said he has never had any help since he “wasn’t a politician,” but said he would continue to act in the town’s best interests and cut costs.
“You have got to have the backbone to stand up and stick to what you are saying you are going to do,” DelGallo said. “You have to do what has to be done to keep the business going and if this town wants to keep going it’ll listen to me … in 2013 you’ll see I’m right.”
Buffardi said his collective experiences make him uniquely qualified to be supervisor and he noted the support he received from not only the Democratic endorsement, but also three others parties.
“I believe that I can successfully turn this government around in the Town of Rotterdam and bring quality government to the residents as they deserve.”
The Town Board candidates played on similar notes of fiscal responsibility as Democrat incumbent Wayne Calder and newcomer Democrat Mike Viscusi separated themselves from Republican candidates Christopher Tomaselli and Joseph Villano. Rotterdam First Party candidate Delores Doriguzzi was absent to due to health reasons, said a representative from the LWV, and the league appeared to be expecting William Cooke, also from RFP, but he was absent.
Viscusi said he would work with other board members, listen to residents’ concerns and be their voice in town government.
“It is time to bring honesty, integrity and accountability back into local government and I can do that with your help,” Viscusi said.
Villano said being a political newcomer allows him to be separated from special interest and provide a fresh perspective to town issues.
“I am able to look forward with clear eyes,” Villano said. “Somebody with those clear eyes is going to have to make the tough decisions to reexamine every budgetary line and try to find the waste in those budget lines.”
Also, Tomaselli said people should remember where candidates from each party have previously stood on issues. The Republican and New No Tax Party members, he said, would be the best decision moving forward.
Calder said town Democrats have been running as a team this election, because the team has the same vision for the community and work together well.
“Our team can work together and without working together things don’t happen,” Calder said. “I spent the last 10 months in a very difficult situation, wanting to accomplish much more than I did.”
Calder said the current town board is “dysfunctional” and he dislikes being “painted with that brush,” but if the Democrats are elected he knows they can work together and accomplish a lot.
“If you don’t have a team with you, you don’t accomplish anything,” Calder said.