Elizabethtown Supervisor Margaret Bartley.
Even though he is no longer a member of the town council, Ken Fenimore has kept his eye on Elizabethtown issues.
In a pair of recent letters submitted to The Valley News, Fenimore has attacked the current administration for what he feels are misstatements about the town’s 2013 budget and the sewer system project.
“The Elizabethtown Town Council is floundering,” he said in a letter that appears in the Dec. 15 edition. “They concentrate on small issues, while the large important things aren’t properly resolved, at least not publicly. The sewer project is toast, illegal meetings have occurred, illegal contracts have been issued, the Comprehensive Plan land regulation is upon you, spending is up, taxes exceed the cap, and the budget documents are flawed.”
Elizabethtown Supervisor Margaret Bartley responded, stating the budget had been checked by the state comptroller’s office.
“The Town Board approved the 2013 town budget on Nov. 20,” Bartley said. “On Tuesday, Nov. 27, an auditor from the New York State Comptroller’s Office conducted the required budget/tax cap audit on the Elizabethtown 2013 budget. The town’s budget came in under the state mandated tax cap for Elizabethtown. The tax cap included a carryover from the previous year. A 6 percent drop in the tax levy, which was approved by the town board in November 2011, created this carryover.”
Bartley added that there were errors found in a previous budget.
“The auditor did find two errors in the previous year’s tax cap calculation, which had been filed in October 2011 by the previous bookkeeper,” she said. “These errors included a $43,021 pension deduction that should not have been taken, as well as a $9,000 overstatement of revenue that the town never received. I corrected these errors in our 2013 tax cap calculation.”
“There are numerous errors in the budget documents which influence the eventual tax levy percentage of increase, which is wrong and underestimated,” he stated, adding, “Bartley states the tax levy increase is under 3.5 percent, but I calculate about 5.5 percent. This exceeds the tax cap and is contrary to the law since no vote was taken to exceed the cap.”
Fenimore also said that he felt he was silenced during the Nov. 8 town board public hearing on the budget.
“It lasted 14 minutes,” he stated. “Supervisor Bartley announced to the persons in attendance that no statements regarding specific items in the budget would be allowed. Only general statements would be accepted. This is contrary to the law. I was prepared to point out the various inaccuracies in the budget documents, but the Board ruled that no specific articles of the budget could be discussed. If you had specific questions, a special conference with the supervisor had to be arranged.”
“The Public hearing allows the Town Board to listen to the comments from town residents,” Bartley said. “The preliminary budget included a written explanation of the general budget items, including the General Fund, Highway Fund and six Special District Funds. I explained that the town budget includes over 300 line items and that anyone with questions about specific lines should come by the Town Hall and I would go over any parts of the budget with them.”
In another letter addressed to the paper, Fenimore said the town was being sued over payments due to work done on the town’s sewer project.
“One of the definitions from Webster’s Dictionary defines ‘sued’ as being petitioned, which means to make a formal written request,” he wrote. “A formal written request was received by the town on Aug. 27 from the Sugarman Law Firm, of Syracuse, who represents the sewer project engineers, Barton & Loguidice. A claim in the amount of $154,964 has been made against the town of Elizabethtown and the ‘claimant respectfully requests that this claim be allowed and paid within the time provided by law from the date of presentation.’”
“This is not a lawsuit,” Bartley responded. “This is a notice of claim. Basically it is a notice of an overdue bill.”
Bartley said that she had also spoken with a representative for the comptroller’s office on the matter, and that the town was not going to pay the bill until there was an itemized invoice produced by the claimant, Barton and Loguidice.
“Some of these bills have been outstanding since 2009,” she said.