Can We Afford To Keep Doing This?

The following letter was published in this week’s issue of the Gazette.

To the Editor:
Trustee Ann Gallelli’s letter to the editor in last week’s Gazette, announcing the board’s approval of a three-year employment agreement with the Village Manager demonstrates on its face that she doesn’t understand the criticisms directed at this agreement by members of the public at the last two public meetings.

Although the bulk of Ms. Gallelli’s letter is devoted to reciting the qualifications of the current Village Manager, it should be noted that none of the residents who spoke to the Board on this issue (myself included) offered an opinion as to whether the current Village Manager should be reappointed, and no one criticized the current Village Manager’s performance. 

Ms. Gallelli defended the board’s approval of the terms of the employment agreement by reporting that it was “virtually identical to that of previous village managers,” a statement that encapsulates her misunderstanding–or intentional ignoring–of the criticisms made of the board’s action in approving this agreement. 

The Village Manager’s contract is worth almost 2% of village tax levy in each of the three years it will be in effect. The Village Manager’s base salary exceeds that of 37 U.S. governors, and it exceeds that of the Cortlandt Town Supervisor, Linda Puglisi, by approximately $27,000. It contains terms that could cost village taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in continuing benefits over the next several decades.  

In September 2017, the Village’s Financial Sustainability Committee issued a report projecting that within just a small number of years from now, village expenditures will exceed revenues. The report indicated that almost two-thirds of the village’s expenditures come in the form of salary and fringe benefits. Given these circumstances, and given current financial constraints and realities that go beyond the village (i.e., the impact of the new federal tax law) the question must be considered: is it appropriate for our village to continue to offer these plum employment agreements that put taxpayers on the hook for decades just because it is a practice that has been done in the past? This question appears to be lost on Ms. Gallelli and the members of the current board.

King Salary.png

It is also disturbing to note that through the Freedom of Information process, I learned that at no time since the current Village Manager was appointed in 2015 by the board (which included then-Trustee Pugh and Trustee Gallelli) has any written performance goals or benchmarks been provided to the Village Manager, although both the 2015 and 2018 employment agreements require that such goals be developed by the board, reduced to writing and given to the Village Manager. No written goals exist for the contract that was just approved either. 

The opportunity exists now: when the current board in the near future (hopefully) creates the required performance benchmarks, the Village Manager should be tasked with the responsibility for addressing and attacking village cost structure, growing reserves and stabilizing tax and fee rates. Paying some much-needed attention to the mundane yet vital issue of the village’s financial sustainability should be required of the Village Manager if, like Ms. Gallelli, the board itself cannot even see the issue.

Roseann Schuyler