Poughkeepsie... Dutchess County Legislative Chairman Roger Higgins and Board of Elections (BOE) Commissioners Fran Knapp and David Gamache have refused to cut any spending from their respective 2010 spending plans.
Democrat Chairman Roger Higgins' shocking written response was that asking the Legislature to share in the countywide spending reduction is "unfair" to him.
While county agencies across Dutchess County Government have heeded Dutchess County Executive William R. Steinhaus' call to cut spending in order to close a $50 million budget gap for 2010, Elections Commissioners Knapp and Gamache plan to spend $1.1 million more in additional spending an increase of 33% over 2009 -- plus a nearly 4% pay raise for themselves.
"Painful cuts are being made to critical services senior citizens and families need, yet Chairman Higgins and BOE Commissioners Knapp and Gamache apparently think it is 'fair' to ask county taxpayers to pay for partisan lawsuits and unreasonable salary increases," said County Executive Steinhaus. "Their refusal to share the pain and make the tough decisions that need to be made is shameful given the financial challenges taxpayers and county government are facing."
In a memo to Budget Director Valerie Sommerville, Legislative Chairman Roger Higgins wrote "it is unfair to ask us to cut ..." Chairman Higgins's 2010 Legislative spending plan includes $265,000 for consulting services and legal expenditures, a stunning spending increase of almost 60% over 2009. "Apparently, Chairman Higgins plans to continue his agenda of spend and tax just like the 11 percent property tax increase he voted for this year --- and is now allocating money to hire more political lawyer friends for more frivolous lawsuits at county taxpayer expense," said Steinhaus. "Yet, Higgins can't find a single penny in Legislative overhead to cut to help close an unprecedented $50 million budget gap. Is this what Chairman Higgins’ calls ‘working together'?”
Commissioners Knapp and Gamache responded to the Budget Director that “while we sympathize with the county’s fiscal situation… we stand by our 2010 budget request.” Board of Elections Commissioners Knapp and Gamache’s spending plan includes giving themselves a 4% salary increase and would increase overall BOE spending by $1,101,034. BOE expenses have grown more than 400% from $874,000 in 2005 to $4.4 million in requested spending just five years later in 2010. County Executive Steinhaus said, “I am certain county property taxpayers do not sympathize with the BOE’s runaway spending habits. County taxpayers expect these two agency heads to better manage their duties and to share the pain and cut back their runaway spending.” The two elections commissioners are political party appointments of the Legislature and report directly to them.
“During this financially challenging time when everyone is being asked to cut back and make sacrifices, Chairman Higgins and Commissioners Knapp and Gamache have all stood up and shamefully said “Not me!” rather than be part of a solution to take the pressure off property taxpayers,” said County Executive Steinhaus. “Taxpayers have been failed by Higgins, Knapp and Gamache who are living in denial and refuse to grasp fiscal reality.”