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The Indebtedness of Gardiner – are you scared yet?

October 27, 2011

In a letter to his daughter, Thomas Jefferson once wrote

Be assured that it gives much more pain to the mind to be in debt, than to do without any article whatever which we may seem to want.

What is true for individuals, is equally true of governments, and especially true for local governments like the Town of Gardiner.  For, while individual debt burdens the single debtor, and untimately their family, public government debt is a burden incurred by a few at the expense of the many. 

When I first came to Gardiner 20 years ago, from an aging upstate industrial city suffering from governmental overspending, it was refreshing to come to a small town that was fiscally healthy, with no debt and a reputation for having the lowest taxes in Ulster County.  Not so any more. 

During the last eight year reign of Democratic supervisors (Zatz/Katz) and town boards, our town’s healthy savings account has dwindled to perilously low levels that would hardly be adequate in a real town emergency.  In fact, when the town needed to rebuild the transfer station a few years ago after a fire, the town board spent close to $400K in the process, and the money that used be there was gone, reqiring the town to bond (just another word for government borrowing) the money. 

Today, as we ponder the Preliminary 2012 budget for the town, which is up 10% from last year, the current town board cries “mandates” from above as the reason for the increases.  However, a closer look at the budget will show that for 2012 alone, the Town of Gardiner will incur $164K, or about 10% of it’s total spending, on debt service alone.  Some of this ($50K) is for payment of the rebuild of the transfer station, which was necessary, but that should have been paid for with savings.  Moreover, while only a portion of the town residents use the transfer station, everyone in town has to take up the burden of the debt payments….hardly fair to taxpayers.

Another $30K in debt is for a new highway vehicle, which is one of the few legitimate items to bond.  $34K in 2012 is for the Town Hall debt we are still paying off.  Yes, we needed a new town hall, and yes, the town authorized $850K to spend. But, then supervisor Zatz went over budget….necessitating the town having to borrow the additional funds.  The final $50K is for the new Taj Mahal Library building…which is being paid for by taxpayers, but that will never actually be owned by the town even if and when it’s paid off. 

While some of the spending above was needed and justified, none of it is from “mandates” coming from higher levels of government.  In fact, the town fathers, like their national breathern, have deemed Gardiners’ past history of fiscal frugality as old fashioned and mean. It seems the trend for the last eight years is to “buy now – pay later” for goodies that the town government must have. 

And, while this borrowing is going on and Gardiner fails to live within its means, tax dollars are being squandered on unwanted and unneeded projects like the sidewalks – with about $50,000 so far down the drain with nothing to show for it but some fancy engineered plans.

If we can take Carl Zatzs’ word for it (and they were uttered in public in town hall) his plan for Gardiner going forward is to tax and spend as much money as he can get his hands on to provide a goody-bag full of services for the peasants….I mean residents.  The current group running on the Democratic line for town offices will continue to borrow their way to Gardiners’ fiscal ruin, with their eye now on the big prize….the $1.5 million Open Space fund that they are screaming to be able to tap into. 

Mark my words, if this crew of Democrats gets in office, the oaths will hardly be taken before they are tapping that $1.5 million fund.  And, at that point, Gardiner will have a higher amount of debt than it spends annually and Gardiner taxpayers will be no better than financial slaves.  The direction that Zatz and company will take Gardiner in is crystal clear, and you, the taxpayer, should be afraid to go there.

This is not the direction Gardiner should be going in. We need to tighten our belts, restore common sense frugality, and get back on sound financial footing.  The choice is clear – vote on November 8 for Bill Barrett, Mike Boylan and Ron Bonagura.

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