Grafton Democrats Respond To Sawyer Budget Statement
by Bill Middleton Grafton Democratic Committee Chairman and Doug La Rocque, Committee Member
A recent article that appeared in the Eastwick Press submitted by Grafton Supervisor Tyler Sawyer himself praises him for ten years worth of tax cuts or no increases. It also is a poorly veiled attempt to attack the lead premise of the Grafton Democratic Party’s platform that calls for a referendum on how the Town Assessor(s) are selected.
Mr. Sawyer’s budgets over the last few years have been conservative, and my thanks.
This year’s proposed budget has a couple of as yet unresolved points that bring into question the final tax levy amount. First, it does not yet have the budget for the Grafton Fire District included in it. Secondly, it estimates a 12 thousand dollar increase over this year’s budget in County sales tax revenue. Now Mr. Sawyer may have some information from Rensselaer County that justifies this, but, in what is a stagnant economy at best, I find it hard to believe sales tax revenue is going to increase. It is also very hard to tell how this year’s finances are stacking up to the budget, as the Supervisor’s monthly report on this is never released to the public at Board meetings.
Also of serious concern to us are Mr. Sawyer’s dual roles as Supervisor and as the Town’s Bookkeeper. It may be legal, but we feel it is very inappropriate. It offers no check and balance to the members of the Town Board or the public. And let me make it clear that I am not accusing Mr. Sawyer of any malfeasance, but such a dual role on anyone’s part at the very least offers up a perception of possible improprieties.
Mr. Sawyer also goes out of his way to defend the current Assessor and the change made a little more than a year ago by the Town Board on how the assessor(s) are selected. Local Law # 1 of 2010 changed this selection process from three elected assessors to one appointed assessor. It is not the person who sits in this position, appointed or elected that still rubs us wrong. It is the fact that this law specifically forbid a public referendum on whether the voters in this Town wanted to give up their right to elect their assessor(s) or not. Mr. Sawyer also points out the amount of money that has been added to the assessment roles since the change. What he fails to mention however, is that the current assessor has access to a program the elected assessors did not – satellite imagery of all lands in the Town. And as far as the number of unrecorded buildings or improved lots, Mr. Sawyer himself is quoted in another publication as saying, “It happens all over especially if you live in a remote area. A lot of these places are tucked away and if you don’t have reason to go on the property you don’t go on the property.” So much for his insinuation that the elected assessors could not handle the job.
I would like to commend the candidates for all offices from all parties. This is one of the hardest fought political campaigns in recent memory in Grafton. All parties have been sticking to the issues and their perception of these issues. As the Democratic Committee in the Town, we have urged our candidates to stay out of the political mud, stick to the facts and not run against anyone, but stand up for the Town. This way, it’s the Town of Grafton that wins.