Weekly Feature

2010-10-27 / Front Page

Board members call for salary reductions

by ANDREA KIMBRIEL Editor

The Clarence Town Board met for a budget hearing on Thursday that grew acrimonious at times.

Several councilmen accused each other of lying, and profanities were used. When the insults weren’t flying, board members suggested cuts to several areas of the budget.

Councilman Peter DiCostanzo said he’d like to see the salaries of the Town Board, supervisor, town attorney, assistant attorney, town justices and engineer reduced to the Jan. 1, 2009, rates.

“If you sit down and you’re honest with yourself, we’re all overpaid,” he said.

The salary decreases would save the town about $11,000, plus payroll taxes and pensions.

Since Town Board salaries have not increased in that time, DiCostanzo later said he would also consider reducing them further.

Supervisor Scott Bylewski said he was not in favor of rolling back salaries but didn’t oppose keeping them flat. His tentative budget didn’t include a cost of living increase for most elected officials.

Councilman Joseph Weiss agreed with Di- Costanzo, saying rolling back salaries made sense because of the struggling economy.

“I know what we all do, and we’re not worth it,” he said. The councilmembers’ 2010 rate of pay is $23,436, and the supervisor’s is $76,359.

Councilman Patrick Casilio disagreed, saying the town has high quality officials, including its judges, and arbitrarily cutting salaries would be punitive.

“We ’re balanced right now, so why do you have to go down?” he said. “I think that this town does a great job of managing the little money that we spend.”

Weiss asked Casilio how many hours he worked on town business, and Casilio estimated an average of four hours per day — answering residents’ calls, completing his liaison assignments and other such activities.

Weiss didn’t believe Casilio’s claim and said the councilman’s reports at Town Board meetings don’t indicate that he’s doing that much. He also accused the supervisor of “milking his job” and said it should be considered a part-time position.

But Bylewski said prior supervisors have called it a full time role, and he puts in that number of hours. He keeps a schedule of his activities that is a matter of public record.

Weiss also suggested that Bylewski’s car, as well as certain other town cars, be eliminated.

“I don’t dispute that Scott has to drive a car sometimes,” said DiCostanzo, adding that perhaps the town could pay mileage instead of maintaining a vehicle.

Bylewski said he uses the vehicle for such things as visits to different departments, meetings and other situations when he needs to be on scene. The vehicle can only be used for town-related matters.

Weiss said 90 percent of fire calls are for emergency medical services. He said he doesn’t object to providing length of service award program benefits or tuition help to firefighters but doesn’t think they need all the trucks and facilities they have.

He said he would like to see a 2 percent reduction from last year’s appropriations for all fire companies and “have them figure out how to be more cost effective.”

DiCostanzo said he could support decreasing the appropriations but added that if they need equipment such as defibrillators or “Jaws of Life” used in the most common type of calls, he would be happy to comply with those requests.

Councilman Bernard Kolber, who is the fire company liaison, noted that Harris Hill’s request was lower for 2010 than for 2009. He said he doesn’t object to their campuses — he wants the firefighters to spend time together so they can build camaraderie and respond more quickly to emergencies.

“I’m not going to play with people’s safety,” he said.

Weiss also attacked a statement he said Kolber made at the Oct. 14 budget meeting that fire companies were extricating car accident victims from their vehicles on a daily basis. Weiss said the New York State Police contradicted that claim.

Kolber said his original statement may have been slightly exaggerated, but the Harris Hill Fire Company alone responded to about 57 accidents this year. He said he would get the relevant numbers about other companies.

The Town Board was in agreement about allowing an addition to the Clarence Animal Control facility. Animal control officer Jerry Schuler was present to request an addition including a bathroom, more kennels and a storage facility. When the town engineer got pricing for the project, it came to about $200,000, but the Highway Department is willing to do the work for $60,000, said Schuler.

However, that price includes material only, not labor, which would increase the cost.

Schuler was directed to get drawings of the proposed addition and discuss them with the town engineer.

The board is expected to deliver its preliminary budget to the town clerk by Friday, after another meeting at 2 p.m. Thursday. If no agreement is reached, the supervisor’s tentative budget becomes the preliminary budget.

A budget hearing is planned for the Nov. 3 Town Board meeting, which begins at 7:30 p.m., and will be held in the Town Hall, 1 Town Place, Clarence.

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