NEW CITY, N.Y. – George Hoehmann strikes an avuncular manner that might be somewhat deceiving.
In less than a month since becoming Clarkstown’s new town supervisor, the Republican has made tough decisions.
He has whittled down his administration, shrunk the number of town attorneys, replaced key positions with lower salaries, and consolidated the directors of finance and operations from two jobs to one.
Streamlining the $1.5 million town attorney staff from seven full-time positions and one part-time member to two full-time, one part-time, plus outside contractors who will not be paid pensions and benefits, will save $350,000. These consolidations, the elimination of the confidential secretary ($100,000 salary plus benefits), and the hiring of a new comptroller for $45,000 less than the previous one, adds up to a $500,000 savings for the 2016 budget.
“We are going to do a top to bottom assessment,” said Hoehmann. “Nothing is off the table.”
Hoehmann will have his work cut out for him.
As a parting shot, outgoing town Democrats gave 300 town employees represented by the Civil Service Employees Association raises of 2 percent for 2016, 2.25 percent for 2017, and 2.5 percent for 2018 and 2019. Hoehmann has said he was not in on the negotiations and voted against the raises. For 2016, raises will increase taxes by half a percent.
“We have to take additional steps,” said Hoehmann. “We have to take a look at every single department. We are looking at staffing. People can’t afford to live in Clarkstown.”
On a recent frigid morning, a man walked into the supervisor’s office and quipped to one of the secretaries “Glad to see you’re still here.”
There is an edge of uncertainty in town but Clarkstown voters last November spoke loud and clear when they ousted 11-year incumbent Democrat Alex Gromack, along with the long-time Democrat Councilwoman Shirley Lasker.
Hoehmann, who has left his full-time job as executive director of Rockland Independent Living, is the first Republican to lead the town in 30 years. The five-member council has a four-to-one Republican majority, with Frank Borelli’s re-election, the election of newcomer Republican John Noto, and Tuesday’s appointment of Nanuet real estate agent Valerie Moldow, who will take Hoehmann’s former council seat until November.
To raise additional revenue, the supervisor is investigating government grants, increasing penalties on serious violations, shared services between the town and county, and reducing the number of take-home vehicles.
In a surprise move last week, the town agreed to commit $300,000 to the Trust for Public Land to help preserve one of Rockland’s most treasured properties, the Marydell Faith and Life Center. The trust wants to keep the 30-acre property bordering Hook Mountain and overlooking the Hudson River from being developed.
Hoehmann said the money for the purchase would come from the town’s “In Lieu of Land Fund,” which has “several million dollars and is used for parks and open space.” The supervisor also said ownership in the parcel will result in tax revenue, beginning with $26,000 for 2016.
Cutting costs and reducing taxes is a clear priority, but Hoehmann promises to bring the historic Vanderbilt-Budke house on Germonds Road back to the people of Clarkstown. He’s waiting for an historic review study to be completed.
“Maybe we’ll budget it as a capital project,” he said.
“I remember being a young boy, fishing in the ponds on that property.”Looking wistful, Hoehmann said, “I remember a big tree. And swinging on a tire from that tree. We have to make this house useful again. It’s a priority.”
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