Every year citizens across the country sit down and write property tax checks to state, county, town, schools and villages collecting ever-rising taxes. In turn, responsible elected officials of representative government are expected to be professional, accountable and diligent. Further they are to provide leadership options that are well researched and represent the best value for taxpayers. The Town of Busti is no exception. I don't know about you, but I guess I am just plain tired of the lack of accountability in local politics which has led us to fewer and fewer people paying the highest taxes in the nation. It is suffocating.
Part of the problem rests with me and you. That's right. Government becomes renegade when citizens fail to exercise their right to oversight. That means that more than a few town residents must get involved, ask questions, attend meetings and help shape the long-term future of our town. The way I see it, all residents of Busti must become interested. Listen, learn and educate yourself and we can have a future of growth and prosperity through a growing tax base, not a shrinking tax base.
Concerned town residents have an opportunity at this point in time. I'm sure you have noticed that government does not reduce your tax burden. When town trustees make major decisions about our money without documenting the data, it's a problem. Residents must participate or we will continue to get short-sighted, shoot-from-the-hip results based on assumptions and personal interest that contribute to our decline. There are 7,351 residents in the Town of Busti. Since 1980, our town has lost 1,377 residents or more than 15 percent of our population.
What's the big hurry? Officials at the town meeting offended residents by offering patronizing time for input. They then turned a deaf ear to concerns by going immediately to a vote the same night, a vote based only on a "best guess." Town leaders pointed to the American Disabilities Act, concerns with the Justice Court and hurdles of town ownership as pressure to act immediately. These concerns need to be addressed, but it is unfair for these issues to be the blame for a decision-making process that intentionally ignores professional third-party examination by including trained architects, design engineers and accountants who are experienced at providing these very solutions or validating the Town Board plan.
Town residents' overwhelming concern remains not one location versus another, but the wanton disregard and irresponsible manner in which the trustees voted on the Tordella site. Mr. Robbins' Feb. 23 opinion article, entitled "Let Me Explain Reason For Busti Office Move" totally missed the point. Residents may support a plan if credible information is offered. We do not need more of the supervisor's "Me Explain" language. Don't we want what our town officials were elected to do? Present facts. Anything less reeks as justification and failure to do the required work. This is an unacceptable way to invest town residents shrinking tax dollars.
Town trustees were so pre-programed to pass the vote to buy the Tordella building Feb. 12, that they confused their printed agenda, and voted to buy the Tordella building before voting to sell the existing Town of Busti Administrative offices. That was telling.
Town of Busti residents expect and deserve more. No one questions the concerns cited for the Lakewood/Busti Community Center. No one questions the Justice Court and the importance of safe, efficient and practical usable space for the legal system to function.
Surprisingly to sell their plan, town trustees offered to "move out" of the new location at a future date after investing $580,000 (Town of Busti numbers) in the Tordella building. Would the trustees really use $330,000 to purchase the building, invest another $250,000 to renovate and then offer town residents the idea of moving out? This is leadership? If this is an official position of our town leaders, the offer should be exercised before spending our taxes. Offer it to a private tax-paying business first.
This kind of thinking comes at the same time the Town of Busti is losing not growing, another tax paying private business - Premier Lakewood. Seventy-five full -time jobs in the Town of Busti will be eliminated as an emotional victim so aptly reminded trustees and town residents at the Feb. 12 meeting. The Town of Busti is not having or going to have an "explosion" of economic growth. We are worried more about an implosion! Only strong leadership that creates opportunities for private businesses to join the tax roll will help. It is our job as residents to make sure the trustees create the right incentives and opportunities. Then act responsibly.
Glaringly missing from Mr. Robbins' opinion article in the paper was grant help from the state of New York. New York state awarded the Village of Bemus Point $375,000 for a Streetscape Improvement Project in 2012! The Town of Busti is eligible. It's a tax rebate for our Town of Busti if we only ask. The state of New York is actively advertising these grants to towns like Busti.
Missing also was the current offer by a tax-paying private business to purchase the Tordella building for $400,000 or $70,000 more if the town would step aside. Town residents could add the tax-paying credit union which is moving into the current Town of Busti Administrative Building and a private business in the Tordella building, putting not just $300,000 back on the tax rolls, but $700,000 in assessed value back on!
Town residents must insist on accountability and smart work. It is the difference in how our elected officials will spend our money. If the Tordella site is the best location for town offices, then why not invest less than 1 percent of the cost of the project and validate the plan so the town residents can all support and feel good about the direction?
The choices Town of Busti residents now face as a result of the town board's vote is to do nothing or petition for a town vote requesting the facts.
David Bargar is a Lakewood resident.