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News from the Supervisor


Good evening and thank you for joining us tonight

January 5, 2010


Good evening and thank you for joining us tonight.


I hope this holiday season has brought peace and joy to you and your loved ones and ask that you join with me as we take a moment to remember and honor the men and women in our armed forces, serving both home and abroad.


Each year at this time, I have the privilege of delivering what has become known as the State of the Town Address.  It gives me a chance to touch on some highlights of 2009, some of our goals for 2010 and even more importantly a chance to share some of my thoughts on Town government and the future of Clarkstown.


Let me first, however, thank my friends and Town Board colleagues Shirley Lasker, Frank Borelli, and George Hoehmann for their continuing service and commitment to our Town.  All of us welcome our newest Town Board member, Stephanie Hausner and I know I speak for every Town Board member in pledging our continuous bipartisan collaboration on behalf of our residents.  It’s a relationship that is very special and one that the Town Board and I are proud of.  It is a stark contrast to the partisanship in Albany and Washington that often seizes the work of government.


A special thanks to John Maloney, a Town Board member for 36 years, for his untiring efforts, work and leadership.  John epitomizes what public service is about and he was and will remain a valuable mentor to myself and the rest of the Town Board.


Last year we were all saddened by the loss of former Councilmember Ralph Mandia, a dedicated public servant, a true partner in government and a friend that we miss dearly. 


I would like to publicly thank our other elected officials Highway Superintendent Wayne Ballard, Town Clerk David Carlucci, Receiver of Taxes Loretta Raimone, and Judges Scott Ugell, Craig Johns, Howard Gerber, and Rolf Thorsen for their equally valuable commitment to our Town. 


The many successes of 2009 are a direct result of the efforts of our town employees from secretaries to department heads, from police officers to highway workers, from engineers to accountants and all the others who provide the services that our residents deserve and have come to expect.


I have included the departmental highlights of 2009 with your copy of the State of the Town address and encourage you to review what our employees have accomplished this year.  I know you will be as proud as I am of their efforts and accomplishments.


One of the best and probably more important jobs a Town Supervisor has is meeting with individuals, small informal groups and the many community organizations that lend their efforts to make our town special and unique.


Listening to their concerns, answering their questions, resolving their problems and asking for their help is what local government is all about.


Too often government is removed from what people really think and what they really want their government to do.  A local government that does not provide for the safety, welfare and benefit of its citizens does more harm than good and an elected official that does not listen to his or her constituents will not be very successful in office.


The current national economic crisis has caused tremendous pain and suffering to many people across our nation.  Hundreds of thousands have lost their jobs, or lost their homes, or even worse lost faith in government and have given up on their dreams.


The number one concern expressed by many people I talk to is whether our Town government will have to make drastic and devastating cuts to services or will it have to raise property taxes by double digits just to balance our budget.


Let me assure all of you tonight, the state of our town is good, the state of our town is strong and the state of our town is healthy.  Clarkstown has and will continue to have a balanced budget with only a 1.6 % tax rate this year…the lowest tax increase in a decade…and will continue to be one of the best places to live in the nation providing quality services to our families.


During my 26 years of public office I’ve learned that there’s far more to government than just dollars and cents, there’s people and services.  Balancing the financial resources of government with necessary services takes skill, experience and patience.  It’s a bit like being a surgeon.  You have to make cuts but they have to be the right cuts.  If you cut too deeply you end up killing the patient.


I often say government is like a menu.  You might not want what’s on the menu today...but you’re darn glad it’s on the menu when you do need it or want it.


Government, however, can’t provide everything for everyone all the time. You have to understand your Town, your community.  You have to do the things that need to be done now and know what can be put off for another day without negatively impacting residents.


Government is a high wire balancing act without a net.  Making the wrong move or moving too fast without thinking ends up hurting people.  Knowing what you are doing and doing it right requires leadership and foresight. 


Some residents want open space, park lands, play grounds and baseball fields.  Some residents want to make sure that their leaves, their old furniture, kitchen appliances and recyclables are picked up on schedule.  Some residents want to make sure that the pot hole on their road is filled and that the snow and ice are removed in time for them to get to work.




Some residents want to make sure that their senior center remains open and the mini trans gets them to the store and doctor when they need to go…some residents want to make sure that the day camp program provides a safe place for their children… to know that on a hot August day their family can cool off at a clean and attractive Town pool, and to have a first rate pre-school program for their children while they go off to work. 


Still other residents want to make sure that the Town stops the stream from flooding out their homes, that they can walk into any of our downtown centers with a sense of pride and community.  Some residents want to know they can go to Town Hall and get their building permit or dog license without having to wait in line for hours or better yet go on line to our website for their needed service.


And all residents want to make sure that when we dial 911 and ask for help, we don’t get a busy signal and that our police, fire and ambulance services will be there promptly when we need them the most...this is what keeps Clarkstown consistently among the top ten safest places to live in the nation.


While our town has and will continue to provide these and other services effectively and efficiently…we also look ahead to what we can do differently and better.


For example, Clarkstown is a leader in green policies and initiatives… purchasing wind, solar energy and hybrid vehicles, creating a tree preservation law, performing energy audits on municipal buildings and implementing green, cost saving modifications to our buildings, forming a Clarkstown Energy Conservation Committee, conducting the first Greening Clarkstown event that brought over 200 residents and local businesses together to learn about energy conservation.


2010 will see the culmination of another ground breaking action taken by our Town as we begin to implement our new comprehensive plan. 


In an extensive and successful grass roots effort the members of the Special Board involved over 600 of our neighbors in public workshops, written surveys, a professionally conducted phone poll and repeated Town wide and area mailings to get public input and to truly make the Comprehensive Plan, to paraphrase President Lincoln, a plan of our town, by our town and for our town.  We are told by the consultants and experts involved in the drafting of the plan that what we did here in Clarkstown will serve as a national model for community planning.


At the same time local government must keep a strict eye on spending and find ways to cut expenses without reducing necessary services and continue in its fight for its fair share of state and federal aid.


While we receive a very small portion of the sales tax from the county, about $3 million in 2009, it is a sliver compared to the $183 million the County is receiving this year for their own coffers.  The single largest source of revenue available to the Town is the property tax.

Out of every dollar Town residents pay in property taxes, the Town receives just twenty nine cents.  That’s twenty nine cents for Highway, Police, and Recreation programs.  Twenty nine cents for our parks, sewer system, drainage improvements, Town Clerk, Assessors, and senior programs.  Twenty nine cents for our Mini Trans, Planning Department and all the other services your Town government provides.  The rest of that dollar, 71 cents, goes to the School Districts, special districts and the County of Rockland.


Since 2004, when I first became Town Supervisor, the Town Board and I have, like skilled surgeons cut where we could without damaging the quality of our resident’s lives.


We have reduced the Town’s payroll by the eliminating 41 positions.  We have saved money by consolidating our Purchasing and Insurance Department and will continue with consolidation efforts of even larger departments.  We have achieved and maintained a Triple A rating from Standard and Poor’s the highest any town can receive, which will result in saving millions in interest payments.  We have eliminated over $10 million dollars from Town Departmental budget requests and this year alone we made a $1.5 million mid year budget cut while decreasing police overtime hours by 16%, netting the Town hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings.


This year we finalized the sale of the Town’s solid waste transfer station in West Nyack to the Rockland County Solid Waste management Authority for $15 million dollars. That money has been put in a tax stabilization fund to reduce the burden placed on the Town’s property tax payers for years to come.


Town officials and I worked tirelessly to secure funds from our federal government’s economic stimulus plan getting $1.75 million for Clarkstown, making us the only town in the county to receive federal stimulus money for two local municipal projects.


A special word of thanks goes to Senator Chuck Schumer, U.S. Representatives Nita Lowey and Eliot Engel, Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski, Senator Tom Morahan, and County Executive Vanderhoef  for their continued assistance in helping our Town receive $14 millions more for highways projects, open space purchases, downtown revitalizations and flood prevention projects to name but a few.


These well thought out reductions, departmental consolidations, and aggressive efforts to secure more state and federal funds… all help reduce the tax burden placed on our residents.


As I noted, these budget actions resulted in a 1.6% property tax rate for 2010, the lowest property tax rate in a decade.  It shows we are on the right track and the Town Board and I pledge to continue moving in that direction to ensure that our most important assets…our residents and our businesses remain in our Town and are able to grow and flourish here.



Of course for some people any tax increase is too much and I understand that.  They urge the type of cuts that devastate services, like reducing the police by 30%, laying off hundreds of Town employees, closing senior centers, eliminating programs for youth and families, doing away with property tax exemptions for our senior citizens, veterans and volunteer fire and ambulance corps.  Their philosophy seems to be that since they don’t need a particular service we should just eliminate it.


It’s a little like saying since I’m not sick today, why don’t we just close all the hospitals to save money.


Governing is a deep responsibility.  It is not a responsibility that I or any other Town Board member takes lightly.  There is no room for irresponsible actions based upon catchy but untested and in some cases extremist notions.


Our actions must be deliberate, our actions must be well thought out and aimed at providing the most good for the largest number of people.


Over 82,000 people make Clarkstown their home.  All of them have their share of private dreams and hopes.  All of them have their share of troubles and concerns, me included.


Government must be on their side, providing them with a safe community, a community where they and their families can enjoy a quality of life that addresses some of those troubles and concerns and helps them achieve some of those dreams and hopes.


I am reminded of when I first became Supervisor.  I was inspecting a flood area with my wife and daughter and we drove down Green Avenue in Valley Cottage right after a rather big rainstorm.  The street was like a river. Almost every resident had serious water damage…some in their basements, some in their garages and some on their main floors. You could read the pain and distress in their eyes.  My daughter turned and said to me, “Dad, why do these people have to live like this?” 


The answer was simple but unacceptable.  In order to save money, our Town’s infrastructure had been neglected and abandoned for years.  Flood prevention projects had been eliminated or put on the back burner.


It was as if the Town had adopted a policy that said since not every home floods when there is a rain storm why should the Town do anything for those homes that do flood.


This is not the right way to save money.  This is not the right way to run government.  Government cannot put off until tomorrow the work that needs to be done today, not just because the problem will grow larger but also because in the end the savings we hoped to see will never materialize and in fact will end up costing more money.  




After that day, after seeing the despair on the faces of residents on Green Avenue, the Town Board and I created a Drainage Task Force, which has completed and funded 90 flood prevention projects and 30 more are in the design or bidding phase.  I am proud to announce that in 2010, we will reach our 100th flood control project!  100 areas of our community no longer live in fear when it rains.


My single, most important goal for 2010 is to continue to reduce the burden on our Towns property tax payer by reducing the costs of government…consolidating wherever possible, by aggressively seeking out more state and federal aid, by fighting for a larger, fairer share of the county sales tax dollar and to continue to provide quality services for our residents.


I sometimes have to remind town residents that I live here too.  I pay school, county, and town property taxes just like them.  I drive on the same roads as they do, jog along the same trails, enjoy the same July Fourth fire works, walk the same downtowns as they do, and hope, like them, that I, my wife or daughter never need the police or ambulance or fire departments but that if and when we do they’ll be there for me and my family just like they will be there for your family.


I sometimes have to remind residents of that but I never forget it myself.


My family is just as important to me as your family is to you.  We have our dreams and concerns just like you.


The only difference is that I have been given the very special honor, a very special privilege and a very special responsibility to do what needs to be done to protect the dreams and address the concerns of 82,000 people as your elected Town Supervisor.


I will do whatever it takes to make sure I meet that responsibility, not just for my family but for your family as well…because together…we are the Town of Clarkstown.


Thank you and God bless.   

Notable 2009 Accomplishments


·    The Town Board took aggressive measures to continue securing fiscal stability in the Town of Clarkstown while planning the 2010 budget resulting in a 1.6% tax levy for the 2010 fiscal year, the lowest in a decade.   


·    Again this year, Clarkstown was ranked one of the top ten safest places to live in the nation.


·    Clarkstown is a leader in local governments in green policies and initiatives, purchasing wind, solar energy and hybrid vehicles, creating a Tree Preservation law, performing energy audits on municipal buildings and implementing green, cost saving modifications to our buildings, signing onto the Mayor’s Climate Protection Agreement, forming a Clarkstown Energy Conservation Committee, creating Energy Star building codes, and conducting the first Greening Clarkstown event that brought over 200 residents and local businesses together to learn about energy conservation.


·    Clarkstown received a Triple A rating from Standard and Poor’s, the highest rating a municipality can receive.


·    Superintendent Wayne Ballard and the Highway Department used their updated website and computer software to record over 5,000 work order requests for pothole and catch basin repairs, right of way maintenance, drainage repairs, roadway resurfacing, litter cleanup, yard waste and leaf pickup, and plowing.  Highway paved 42 streets throughout the Town. 


·    The Highway Department is being considered for a 2009 NYS DEC Environmental Excellence Award for their salt reduction and safer roads initiatives.


·    The Town Board and Comptroller’s Office refinanced some bonds saving $250,000.


·    The Building Department issued 1,400 building and 3,300 fire permits collecting $1.3 million dollars in fees.  


·    Through the Town Attorney’s Office and Building Department we updated and revised chapters of the Town Code.


·    In addition to mobile office hours and evening hours, Town Clerk, David Carlucci instituted early morning office hours to help assist our residents who lead busy lives.  The Town Clerk also initiated a Microfilm Project to address the problem of water damaged criminal dockets from the Justice Court and was awarded a State grant to complete the project.


·    Downtown revitalizations projects are complete in Congers, Nanuet and Valley Cottage.  In 2009, we were excited to break ground on the New City revitalization project, which will continue throughout the next two years.  The West Nyack project is in the planning stages and the Central Nyack project will follow.


·    We are continually updating our Town website to make government easier for residents.  We started disseminating e-newsletters that residents can sign up for on our website, which allows us to provide valuable information about our Town.  Supervisor Gromack also joined Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to become more accessible.


·    We completed or initiated 20 drainage improvement projects including the following three major projects, Virginia Street, Elks Drive, and Hackensack River Drainage Improvements.


·    We constructed the Town’s new resident compost and mulch facility at Germonds Park. 


·    Our Justice Department has introduced payment of parking tickets online significantly increasing fines collected. 


·    Clarkstown Mini Trans received four surplus buses from the County of Rockland enabling the Town to postpone buying new buses for the next two to three years, saving approximately $300,000.


·    We finished the construction of a communication tower to enhance interoperability among all emergency responders and made it available to other emergency responders. 


·    Supervisor Gromack and the Town Board continued the Clarkstown Volunteer Incentive Program and recognized over 100 new local businesses that have agreed to offer discounts to Clarkstown’s emergency service volunteers. 


·    Through our Receiver of Taxes, Loretta Raimone, Clarkstown taxpayers can now register online to receive their tax bills and tax receipts by email. 


·    The Town of Clarkstown joined Orange and Rockland Utilities in a pilot program designed to test the feasibility of energy efficient Light Emitting Diode (LED) streetlights.


·    The Town Board and Recreation Commission started construction on the Valley Cottage Hamlet Park, which is almost complete.  The park is located on Lake Road in Valley Cottage and has a beautiful hand cut stone wall, wooden gazebo and lush landscaping. 


·    The Planning Board reviewed over 250,000 square feet in commercial site plans including Landmark Corporate Park in New City, United Structural Steel in Congers, and Brega Bus Maintenance and Depot in Valley Cottage.


·    Also before the Planning Board are four applications for Active Adult Residence (AAR) for residents 55 and older, including Eden Park, West Nyack, Orchard Ridge, Congers, Vanderbilt Grande, New City, and Squadron Land LLC, New City.  The Planning Board is also reviewing plans for Hyenga Lake, a senior residence that will have 65 units.


·    Clarkstown received $10 million from the Rockland County Sewer District for Town sewer upgrades.


·    The Town constructed a new park and ride lot on Route 304 in New City, paid for by the State of New York.


·    The Town Board has reduced the Town’s payroll by eliminating 41 positions and consolidated our Purchasing and Insurance Department and will continue with consolidation efforts of more departments.


·    The Town Board eliminated over $10 million from Town departmental budget requests and in 2009 made a $1.5 million dollar mid year budget reduction and decreased police department overtime hours by 16%.


·    Through the Town Attorney’s Office we finalized the sale of the Solid Waste Transfer Station in West Nyack to the Rockland County Solid Waste Management Authority for $15 million dollars.  That money will be put in a tax stabilization fund to help reduce the burden on tax payers. 


·    The Town Board worked to be sure Clarkstown received funds from the federal government’s economic stimulus plan funding infrastructure projects like drainage and road improvements.  We secured $1.75 million for Clarkstown, making us the only Town in Rockland to receive federal stimulus money!


·    In an extensive and successful grass roots effort the members of the Special Board involved over 600 residents in public workshops, written surveys, a professionally conducted phone poll and repeated Town wide and area mailings to get public input for the new comprehensive plan.  We are told by the consultants and experts involved in the drafting of the plan that what we did here in Clarkstown will serve as a national model for community planning.



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