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Democrats Cite Precedent in Push for Fewer Elected Officials

Democrats say current economic times require elimination of three elected positions in Southold but Republicans are not convinced there will be a significant savings.

Smaller government is usually a Republican battle cry, but this year Southold Democrats are trying to eliminate three elected offices within the town.

Democratic Tax Receiver Candidate Bill Edwards is running on the platform to abolish the position currently held by (if he is elected) and town Democrats chose not to run a candidate for assessor because, Democratic Chairman Art Tillman said, the party does not believe three elected assessors are necessary.

Tillman said if Edwards were to win next Tuesday, he would lobby the Town Board to eliminate the position. According to Tillman, other towns in New York are eliminating elected tax receivers.

According to published reports on Syracuse.com and the Utica Observer-Dispatch, several towns in upstate New York have already eliminated the position. Camillus Town voted to abolish the position in September and New Hartford will be voting to abolish the position next Tuesday.

Southold Town Clerk Elizabeth Neville said comparing Southold Town to upstate towns is not an accurate comparison of workload.

“Places upstate are different. Many are not in populated areas and some clerks actually operate from their homes,” Neville said.

Neville said that no one has asked for her opinion or for information on how such a transition might work.

“Quite frankly, it would still require the tax receiver’s staff. I don’t believe we could do it without additional personnel,” Neville said.

Neville has four employees in her office, who she said are all busy and could not absorb the responsibilities of the tax receiver’s office. Another point Neville made was that the tax receiver’s clerks work on a completely different schedule from that of her current staff.

Tillman said because residents are allowed to pay their taxes through the banks, the position of tax receiver is antiquated and unnecessary. Once the tax receiver position is eliminated, he said, the existing staff would move into the clerk’s office.

“This has nothing to do with Mr. Sullivan personally. It’s about savings for the town,” Tillman said.

Moving the tax receiver’s office into the clerk's office and cutting back on assessors has been explored in the past, Neville said. When a group called TaxPac was active in the town in the 1990s, she said, a study was done but showed there would “not be much of a savings” if the position was eliminated.

Tillman said a study done in the 1990s is not relevant today and the current financial climate necessitates cuts where possible. He believes political parties should not play a part in home assessment and that having elected assessors “smacks of political favoritism” in the tax office. He believes professional assessors from outside the town should be hired in civil service positions.

, who is running unopposed, takes exception to Tillman’s claims that the town’s elected assessors are not “professionals.” Duffy said all three assessors are advanced certified assessors and she has been a certified assessor for 20 years.

As elected officials, Duffy said, they can forgo raises while civil service employees have contracts with raises built-in.

Tillman said his research showed the larger Village of Hempstead has one elected assessor and two clerks in its office. He was unaware if the department had field inspectors or draftsmen.

According to Duffy, larger towns may have fewer assessors but Southold does not hire out separately field inspectors or draftsmen because the assessor do those jobs already.

Tom November 02, 2011 at 07:21 PM
This logic is akin to trying to save money by not paying your mechanic, and still expecting your car to be repaired. It makes no sense. These elected officials are paid, and for that pay, they do the work. So, if you eliminate the job, what, the work is still going to be done? By who? By magic? Certainly none of the other town workers are going to be able to do all this extra work. They are overworked as it is. They are not going to magically find more time to process your taxes. (Well, they will, but it will be in the form of overtime, which we will all pay dearly for) We are going to have to hire more town employees to do this work. Union employees. Employees who get raises, benefits, and vacation time. And in the end, we'll all end up paying more. Just another game, by Art Tillman and his merry but misguided band of fear-mongers.
forward thinking November 02, 2011 at 07:39 PM
GEE I THOUGHT THE NAY SAYERS WERE VOLUNTEERING FOR NO PAY.
Tom November 02, 2011 at 08:00 PM
You think that the Democratic Party naysayers were going to work for no pay??? The way I see it, half the slate is looking to collect double pay! Bob Meguin gets a pension from NY State. He is also going to collect a salary if elected. Nick Deegan is a carpenter for Off Track Betting, and is age 62. So the minute he gets done putting up plywood on all the windows on all the closed OTB locations, he is going to likely retire, and collect a pension. Then he will also be collecting a salary, if elected. Brian Hughes is age 62, and has worked for government his entire life, which means, you guessed it, he will be able to collect a pension. He will also be collecting a salary, if elected. So, the way I see it, is that they are not looking to work for free. They are looking to work and be paid by the taxpayers. Twice.
forward thinking November 02, 2011 at 08:12 PM
whoa- was tounge in cheek - but love the response - i love informed true'isms
Charlie Z November 02, 2011 at 08:16 PM
and Lynn Sommers, being a "life long educator" (see Patch profile), means she'd be dipping into the CSEA retirement trough as well, And Mr. Brautigam, with his 22 years years as a public servant, will no doubt be dipping into that pension too. Hmmm....
Tom November 02, 2011 at 11:49 PM
Oh I know it was tongue in cheek. But I couldn't resist using it as a jumping off point to show what a complete fraud that Art Tillman's entire party platform is. Hey Art, you want to save the taxpayers money by eliminating assessors and the receiver of taxes, and hoping that the "Magic Labor Fairy" comes and does the work that they used to do? Is that your plan for saving taxpayers money? I have a better idea. How about all your candidates who are entitled to pensions, which seems like most of them, publicly announce that they each elect not to collect a salary from Southold taxpayers if elected? They are already being paid by taxpayers via a pension, so why should they be paid twice? How about that Art? You want to save us Southold taxpayers REAL money, then do that. Don't pay lip service to eliminating some paltry $37K salary for a receiver of taxes. Elect not to take the Supervisor salary, and the council salary, and the judge's salary. You want change? There it is.
Tom November 02, 2011 at 11:59 PM
Yeah, well you know what they say: Pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered. I smell bacon.
William Swiskey sr November 03, 2011 at 12:54 PM
Eliminate the three positions save $150,000 there, cut bennies for P/T elected officials, Save $250,000 here. Guess what the tax increase is almost wiped out. We save $1,000,000 in less then 3 years. The bull that the tax receivers work will over tax the comptroller or clerk is Bull. Check it out after Jan. the county gives the town the unpaid taxes and takes over collections, This would be a good story for the patch to look at. It. Both sides are posturing, let's look at it for what it is a sound business decision.
forward thinking November 03, 2011 at 01:06 PM
i agree lets get real facts - while i agree on some points bene.'s are a negative impact on production and quality of employee and "going the extra mile" if we all who have "operated" business think about it salary is not what keeps employees from leaving - its quality of life - which is why we are in southold town - we pay taxes for the quality - try up west taxes like wading river / shoreham
Sandy Martocchia November 03, 2011 at 01:45 PM
Bill, just because the elected officials would be cut under the Democrats proposition, does not mean the positions would be cut. In the assessors department the idea is to put civil service employees there instead.
William Swiskey sr November 03, 2011 at 02:54 PM
Good people are listening, I wish the DEMS. and GOP would sit on channel 22 and present the voters with there take on the pros and cons of this issue say this Fri. or Sat after 7.30 PM ,so people can watch. Even Sun,. would work. Then a reasonable decision can be made
forward thinking November 04, 2011 at 02:40 AM
amen bill i agree - but unfortunately personal political agendas would rule - i have looked in their eyes (not all) and see honesty and evaluations of positions and decisions that were against the grain. (las vegas trip highway) the osprey quick and correct.. while i disagree on bene.'s with you i understand your position - unfortunately only time will tell...taking the tax rec. position away would only add union (heavy bene.'s) to the clerks office ---- i firmly believe there are ways to increase revenues just like i have done in church and business. this is a positive approach to fiscal responsibility...

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