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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
· 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
· 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
· We constructed the Town’s new resident compost and mulch
facility at Germonds
· 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
· 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
· Through our Receiver of Taxes, Loretta Raimone, Clarkstown
taxpayers can now register online to receive their tax bills and tax receipts
· 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
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
· The Planning Board reviewed over 250,000 square feet in
commercial site plans including Landmark
in New City,
United Structural Steel in Congers, and Brega Bus Maintenance and Depot in
· 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
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.