The Orangetown Town Council approved a resolution at Tuesday’s meeting to .
Two weeks ago, the Clarkstown Town Board approved a similar resolution, as all to the county. According to the resolution passed at the Orangetown meeting on Tuesday, a review of the utilities showed that Orangetown was paying for the costs to maintain street lights, traffic lights and fire hydrants along county roads within the town, while the county has a highway department to maintain highway roads.
A discussion about the resolution Tuesday night touched on whether or not it was vindictive of the towns to charge the county for such utilities. Earlier this year, the county shifted the costs for election expenses and community college chargebacks to the towns. Last Wednesday, Rockland County Legislator Ilan Schoenberger strongly criticized the towns' plan.
Ultimately, the resolution passed Tuesday by a vote of 4-1 with Councilman Denis Troy voting against it.
“This is just counterproductive in doing the same thing that they did and I think we’re heading down the wrong path,” Troy said. “I believe what they did was dead wrong, particularly doing it in the middle of the year. It doesn’t make us any more right.”
Councilman Thomas Diviny said he didn’t think the resolution was vindictive or counterproductive.
“You can’t put a budget out there which we rely on and go back and forth, and then change it mid-stream,” Diviny said.
Part of the reason Diviny said he was in favor of the resolution is because the county shifting costs to the towns in the middle of the year hurts the towns’ budgets.
“You can’t expect the towns to make up for your mistakes in the past,” he said. “We are very conservative with our budgets and we had no reason to think the county would do this to us. We can’t budget effectively, especially with the two-percent cap.”
Pearl River resident Michael Mandel was the only person to speak about the issue during public comments. He sided with Diviny and the others who voted in favor of the resolution.
“It’s going to destroy our budgetary process this year, a process that everybody on the board worked very hard on,” Mandel said of the county chargebacks.
Supervisor Andy Stewart had another reason for voting in favor of the resolution, which was simply it makes sense for accountability as the county would be paying for county roads.
“You often hear the statement that all the taxes come out of the taxpayers’ pocket and what difference does it make which government scale is charging it? It makes a really big difference in terms of accountability if we’re responsible for our budget and they’re responsible for their budget,” Stewart said. “Granted, it’s all going to paid for by the taxpayers in one way or another, but that taxpayer needs to know who to speak with, who to go to to find out exactly how that money is being spent. When you have cost-shifting with the tuitions and the elections and so on, the entity that’s paying for it isn’t the one that really can speak to the program and how that money’s being spent.”