Thursday, May 01, 2008

editorial-albany times union---work for taxes

A bright idea on taxes

First published: Monday, April 28, 2008

So you're a senior citizen living on a fixed income and having trouble paying your property taxes. What can you do, short of hoping taxes will someday go down or picking up and moving out of New York state?
If you happen to live in the Town of Greenburgh, Westchester County, there is now a third option, thanks to the enlightened leadership of Supervisor Paul Feiner. Earlier this month, the Greenburgh Town Board endorsed a pilot program put forth by Mr. Feiner that will allow some senior citizens to offset their property taxes by working for the town. Other communities should take note, and so should the state Legislature.

Under the Greenburgh program, as many as 15 senior citizens with incomes of no more than $36,000 will be hired at $8 an hour to perform tasks that are compatible with the talents they developed during their working years. Last December, Mr. Feiner told The Associated Press that he hopes to attract retirees with a variety of skills who can help in Town Hall and elsewhere in the community. "There are lots of things people can do for the town, and it wouldn't cost us that much to pay them," Mr. Greenburgh said.

His program is a win-win. The town will offset its labor costs by hiring experienced workers at minimum wage, and the seniors will be able to pay down some of the taxes on their homes. And in Greenburgh, where property taxes are the third highest in the country, homeowners need all the help they can get.

Should similar programs be adopted in the Capital Region? The answer is yes, but with a caution that any program must be free of politics. As most Albany residents know all too well, any jobs program can well turn into a patronage haven. That's not being cynical, either. Albany's Democratic machine was often criticized in years past for efforts to politicize its summer jobs for youth program. In Colonie and Saratoga Springs, Republicans have been accused in past years of doing the same.

Presumably, the $36,000 income ceiling is low enough to prevent big campaign contributors from taking advantage of it. But that's not to say that administrators couldn't find a way to make exceptions -- by raising the ceiling for lawyers who have "unique" experience, for example -- or allowing political operatives to screen out opposition party loyalists from any list of applicants.

The best way to prevent such abuses would be to have the program administered by a senior citizens center, or a bipartisan screening of local officials and seniors. The goal must be to help seniors stay in their homes and stay in New York. And, as far as work programs go, stay free of politics.

THE ISSUE:A town experiments with giving seniors a chance to work off tax bills.

THE STAKES:The idea deserves close study statewide.


Anonymous said...

The most telling part of the article is "And in Greenburgh where property taxes are the third highest in the country, homeowners need all the help they can get."

All property owners need help.

Third highest in the country???

Anonymous said...

This is another hairbraned maneuver by Paul

I want to see projected tax increase for next year.

Anonymous said...

We wouldn't need to have senoirs work for taxes if you just made some cuts in the budget!
To Start let's cut
Comm center-7 employees 350,000
Police dept-10 employees 1,000,000
Town Hall -8 employees 400,000
Parks/Rec -4 employees 250,000
DPW -8 employees 450,000for a savings of at least 2.4 million dollars

Anonymous said...

Anon at 3:23, couldnt agree with you more.

Do it now.

Anonymous said...

what about the employee's that need there 30-40k to put food on the table for there families and pay there mortgages. Should we put our greenburgh residents that work hard for the town on the streets. All u people see is the numbers you don't see the people losing there jobs and foreclosing on there homes so you can save $100 bucks on taxes.

Think before you act and speak!

Anonymous said...

The police average 100K or more with OT.

There are plenty of jobs in retail around.

We cant support massive Gburgh payrolls.

Anonymous said...

The employees have the attitude that the Town cant cut payrolls.

Well, NYC cut massively in the 70s, I dont see why we cant. We just need a Town Council with concern for the residents.

Anonymous said...

"Should we put our greenburgh residents that work hard for the town on the streets."

Town taxes should and could certainly be lower for Unincorporated Greenburgh. Simply need to trim the fat and have a professional manager at the helm.

That said, it's basic economics that some will need to move to more affordable municipalities while others can better afford to live in our municipality.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Greenburgh for doing something nice for the seniors!

Anonymous said...

Greenburgh property taxes 3rd in the country!

Greenburgh Central school taxes #1 in in Westchester. NY school taxes #1 in the entire country!

What the heck does that tell us?

Do you feel you're getting top shelf services here?

Do we have the highest income in the country? Are our property values the highest in the country?

Does Greenburgh or Greenburgh Central make any top list ANYWHERE as being tops in ANYTHING?

It's this weren't so sad it would be laughable.

I love that this blog provides a forum for diversion of what should be the most pressing issues we have. Demand that both town government and school administration figure out how to change these disturbing facts!

Rant over. Now, lets get back to talking about how one citizen is "above the law", "free parking" and "grandpa working off his tax bill"

Anonymous said...

Why is this just for seniors? This is discriminatory. I am a single mother -- why cant my teen have a town job?

Anonymous said...

It seems easy for you to say just fire 37 working/contributing people. Maybe you have enough and don't realize what a paycheck means to the 'average' working person. For the most part municipalities don't have wealthy people on the payroll. If you put these citizens out of work then where will they end up? Don't we already carry the burden of many who don't 'work' for their keep. Do this and your taxes will just increase at another level. What has to happen is a job freeze and the existing town workers must share in the extra work load and be grateful to still have a job! Good Luck Greenburgh!

Anonymous said...

It is not easy for me to say fire anyone. Yes, if employees would agree to job freeze, salary freeze, benefit freeze, that would help.

Also, no capital improvements unless reviewed thoroughly. Certianly no new public safety building until we understand why so many police in the station house.

Anonymous said...

tax payers understand this; they will start cutting at the bottom (or the fat as you like to cal it), these are people that need the money. Ask for them to cut from the top down.
Supervisor 100k to 70k
Comptroller 100k to 70k
and keep going for all department heads. That way nobody losses there job but we are cutting expenses.

Anonymous said...

I agree with both, cut salaries at top, cut excess employees.

hal samis said...

While you're worrying about those Greenburgh citizens who work for the Town, did you know that of the 105 Town employees who earned over $90,000 in 2007, only 35% live in Greenburgh.

And as you may suspect, the overwhelming bulk of the 65% who don't live here (because they can't afford to?) are employed at the Police Department.

The answer is not cutting the salaries of Department heads, if they know what they are doing and I offer that there are precious few that do.

I just wonder why there are so many Police Officers who earn the same, if not more, than Town Department heads and so much
more than their counterparts working NYC's more dangerous neighborhoods.

But the Greenburgh Chief of Police chides taxpayers: what if someone were to die.

How about the highest paychecks for 2007: just those over $130,000 -- and it would be even worse in the lower grids -- $133,073, $136,202, $131,792, $131,034, $153,002, $148,776, $134,500.
All but one comes from within the Police ranks.
The $148,776 is the Chief of Police, John Kapica.
The one not in the Police Department is my good friend, Al Regula at $134,500. He of leaf and garbage collection and failed Town construction projects.

The compensation above does not include the benefit package, add 40%.

Thank Brodsky for his support of the PBA. After all, he thanks them for their support of Brodsky.

As for "what if someone were to die", how about when it is a Town dying a slow death? The inquest should state that the cause of death was Police payroll and benefits.

On the battlefield and in swamped hospital emergency rooms, the concept of triage exists. Maybe someone will die, even after following judicious payroll cuts. I didn't invent triage; but better that a few might instead of everyone for certain.

But I think that the problem can be alleviated by looking at the upper strata of payroll, not by firing a few $50,000 clerks or secretaries.

Firing one of your own. Now that's a good laugh.

Anonymous said...

Greenburgh taxes are not the third most expensive in the country-- Westchester county residents pay the third most expensive taxes. Greenburgh residents pay less than residents of the villages for municipal services.

Anonymous said...

It should be mandatory that police officers live within Greenburgh.
They are laughing all the way to the bank saying how stupid we the residents and the town are to let this happen.
They take our money they should live in Greenburgh.
It's tough if they say that they cannot afford to live here.
Laws have to be changed.
The chief lives in tim buck too making all that money and says that he cannot afford Greenburgh,well how many of us are on fixed income and still manage to live here .
That's no excuse to live outside your juristiction ,that's where the overtime comes to light,well call the second and third in command hoping that they live in Greenburgh.
Whatever percentage of police live outside they should not receive a salary as those that live within Greenburgh.
We have to start some where to save money.
Those who have dealings with the unions have got to stand up and have laws changed .
Our tax money has been misused for too too long.

Anonymous said...

There should be no overtime for police. If they need to work late one nite they should start there shift latter, common sense. Overtime is out of control and needs to be adjusted. Everytime the Cheif says someones going to die the Townboard backs down. For the cheif to use that as his argument is disgraceful.

Anonymous said...

We should get a bid from teh state poice -- what would they charge to cover us --