Town of Saratoga
Supervisor State of the Town Address
January 12, 2004
At this time I would like to present my first State of the Town address. It is my intention to review the current status of the town and identify some initial goals and directions upon which we would like to focus.
The state of the town address provides an opportunity to reflect back on where we have come from and where we must focus our resources. In a brief time I can not cover every event, activity, organization, individual or program so I apologize in advance to anyone or group that I have not mentioned.
I am fortunate to begin my term as supervisor in a town that in most every respect is in excellent condition. Previous town officials, such as retiring supervisor Bob Hall, retiring town clerk Jean Casey, and retiring town councilman Phil Griffen are to be recognized and commended for devoting their life energy to serving the town. They did it with a passion, commitment, and excellence.
Our Town has been blessed with a multitude of individuals that generously donate their time and talents to serve the town through a countless variety of organizations and committees. Through the General Schuyler Emergency Squad the delivery of emergency services to the town residents is the best it has ever been. The newly initiated ALS program has been well conducted and received by residents of the town. Just recently the efforts of the squad in their response and care saved a two month old infant that was in respiratory arrest. This past year the General Schuyler Emergency Squad has responded to over 600 calls and since the initiation of the ALS paramedic coverage the squad has not lost one first run responder to a neighboring squad. The three fire districts serving the town have well trained members and excellent equipment. A strong cooperative working relationship between all departments must grow and continue. Review and refinement of some of the 9-1-1 numbers must be done.
Organizations like our churches, the Old Saratoga Historical Association, our senior citizens organizations, the library board, youth commission members, Old Saratoga Athletic Association, the American Legion, and the cemetery association, are recognized and praised most highly for all of the outstanding work that they do. The Schuylerville Area Chamber of Commerce is recognized and supported for sponsoring events and activities and for promoting our area businesses and opportunities. We will continue to promote economic growth and development taking full advantage of our Empire Zones. The two villages and town have been meeting regularly to work on community development and other issues of mutual concern. This cooperative effort is further recognized and appreciated. The Quaker Springs Park and The Schuyler Park plan and all of its components such as Hudson's Crossing and Stark's Knob will be supported as well as events and activities such as the turning point parade and eighteenth century events. A strong working relationship with the National Park Service and the National Cemetery will be supported and encouraged.
Town spirit and pride will be stimulated and emphasized. Cooperation and relations with our neighboring towns and Saratoga and Washington County will be built upon and expanded. Our town has great cooperation and relations with our Governor George Pataki, our representatives in Washington especially Congressman John Sweeney, our state senator Joseph Bruno and our Assemblyman Roy McDonald. A close working relationship with Schuylerville Mayor John Sherman and Victory Mayor George Sullivan will be emphasized. With the synergistic effect 1 + 1 = 3.
The Saratoga Lake Association is recognized for their efforts in protecting Saratoga Lake. Through their activities they have conducted a number of studies and research activities relative to Saratoga Lake. The results of these has and will continue to help protect the lake from becoming a reservoir for Saratoga Springs and will enable further activities to be conducted that will improve the quality of the lake. The lake association is further recognized for their efforts in creating a lake historical calendar and promoting efforts to protect and preserve historical areas of the lake.
Financial the town is in good condition. This has resulted from sound financial management, strict adherence to state policies, accurate record keeping, and frugal decision making emphasizing getting the maximum benefit for every dollar spent. A prosperous county economy has generated sales tax revenue that exceeded expectations and brisk property sales and refinancing of homes have resulted in increased mortgage tax revenue. Extensive thought and research has gone into all town business transactions. You don't spend money because you have it, you spend it because you need to and the expenditure meets the needs and desires of the town residents. We have a low tax rate. The town tax rate for this year was reduced and
the county tax rate should remain unchanged through at least 2005. Our bookkeeper is experienced and knowledgeable of
all laws and regulations, has accurate records and promptly handles all town receipts and expenditures.
Our assessor and her clerk have brought the roles up to an equalization rate of 100%. Since the county is now basing sales tax distribution to towns with a formula using the equalization rate as a major factor, it will be imperative that the tax roles be updated annually. This will insure a fairness to all residents and result in maximum county sales tax distribution to the town. The assessor is experienced and utilizes an up to date system and methods to insure that our assessments are accurate, fair, and up to date. Properties in the town are monitored regularly to see that our equalization rate stays at 100%. Our Town tax collector is efficient, organized, respectful and courteous when dealing with residents and performing her duties. When questions arise she eagerly obtains answers.
The Town board is experienced, broad based, and eager to conduct the business of the town. Three of our members are returning with 28 years of total experience. This experience will prove very beneficial in our dealings with difficult issues that have an extensive background. Town board members have also served the town in capacities that include planning board member, Zoning Board of Appeals member, Board of assessment review member, town historian and members of numerous town committees and community organizations. Our town board members also bring with them a diverse background and broad based track record and experiences in agriculture, business, public utilities, education, administration, knowledge of parliamentary procedure, and leadership.
Our new Town clerk enters her position with a good working knowledge of the job responsibilities having served as deputy town clerk for the previous year. Her computer skills and knowledge are extensive and her human relations skills are superb. Her goal is to serve all residents in an efficient prompt and professional way.
The Town of Saratoga Highway department superintendent and the members of the town highway crew are second to none. They have years of experience with knowledge that is extensive in both breadth and depth. The crew is experienced, dedicated, hard working, and professional that take their job seriously and do the very best job possible. I have personally observed them on several occasions and will attest to their high skills and professionalism. Our roads are in great shape. They are well engineered, maintained and cared for. The town has adequate equipment with a maintenance and replacement schedule that insures that it is up to date and operates at top performance.
The planning board and zoning board of appeals are composed of members with years of experience. They are motivated to promote the best interests of the town reflecting the comprehensive plan, common sense, and good judgment.
Our town justices and town attorney have experience, training, and motivation to conduct the legal business of the town in a fair, just, and responsible manner.
Our Animal control officer is available, responsive, efficient, and hard working. Although he is relatively new to the position he is up to speed on regulations and procedures.
Our new Historian and deputy historian have extensive knowledge of the history of the town. They are rich in organizational, writing, and technology skills and have the contacts and people skills to thoroughly document current events and accurately research the past.
Having touted all of the strengths and assets of the town one would think that this is utopia and no work remains to be done. If this was the case we could adjourn the meeting and go home. The reality is that there is still much work to be done.
Initially we want to preserve, protect, and foster the things that make the Town of Saratoga a great place in which to live and work. Being a lifelong resident and growing up and working on a farm has given me a strong appreciation for the land and lifestyle of our community. We need to focus on and protect our environment. As I stated earlier Saratoga Lake will be defended from being a source of water for the City of Saratoga Springs. The EPA efforts for dredging of the Hudson River continue. I will work so that the voice of the Town of Saratoga will be heard by working with the community leaders in Saratoga and Washington Counties. It will be important that the local residents have a voice that is heard and that sound science guide the path to make the right decisions for the Hudson River and our area. County Board of Supervisor Chairman Fred Acunto recently named both Bob Hall and Butch Lilac to membership on the Saratoga County committee that will monitor and review all dredging proposals.
The recently adopted town comprehensive plan has established the goals and priorities of the Town. These will serve as the guide for the town. Promoting agriculture and maintaining open spaces will be both a priority and a great challenge. The development pressures within the town are great and will most likely increase over time.
We must recognize that we do not live in a microcosm, and that it is important to have a strong, vibrant business community. We will promote economic growth and development taking advantage of our empire zones and working with the villages to encourage development in our downtown areas. The town will work together with the Schuylerville area chamber of commerce in promoting our area businesses and opportunities.
Staff development for all town officials and employees will be encouraged. This training is an investment in our future and will insure a town government that is current, efficient, and productive.
Communication needs to be enhanced and expanded. Town government is the level of government that is closest to the people and therefore must be the most responsive. We will Listen to the residents to determine their needs and wishes. We Can't do all things for all people.
One of the major efforts that I will make is to implement research based, data driven Shared decision making practices. The rationale for this is simple - those that are closest and most impacted by an issue are in the best position to give input and give direction to the decision. Shared decision making takes longer but gives constituents ownership of the decision and results in better decisions. The internet and e government will be expanded. Minutes of all town board meetings are already published and shortly planning board and ZBA minutes will be added. A monthly town calendar and news letter will be published. E mail and voice mail will be expanded and responded to in a timely manner. Residents in all areas of the town will be sought out for input.
As openings become available for town boards and positions they will be filled by appointing responsible qualified people to town positions. I encourage anyone interested in being a member of town committees and boards to notify myself, town board members, or the town clerk.
Discussions regarding a new town hall will be commenced shortly. The reality of the town hall is that the building has some serious structural problems that are cost prohibitive to repair. A series of public forums will be sponsored to first of all gain input from the residents regarding what they did not like about earlier town hall propositions and what they would like to see in a new proposal. Given this information a committee will be formed to research best practices and develop some preliminary possibilities. There will be several meetings to review the action plan and exchange ideas and information with all town residents. Although the process will take time we will end up with a proposal that will meet the needs and desires of the town residents.
Another focus of the town will be to implement the goal set by the town comprehensive plan to establish a town park. We must provide better town sponsored recreational facilities for all of our town residents.
Now I know that I told you earlier that 1+1 = 3 and you may wonder what kind of math we taught. But I can tell you that in the Town of Saratoga 1 + 1 really does = 3 and that is because of the synergistic effect that we have in this community. We have great things happening and we are going to build on these successes. Shared decision making is the process that we will use to make our successes. Today, just as in 1777 when the American forces rallied to defeat the mightiest army in the world and give rise to America's freedom - so to today our town residents will rally and work together to build the greatest collective future possible. It is with enthusiasm and excitement that we will move forward in 2004.
Thomas N. Wood, III Supervisor
Town of Saratoga