Town of Saratoga
Supervisor State of the Town Address
January 9, 2006
At this time I would like to present my annual State of the Town address. It is my intention to review the current status of the town and identify the direction and goals upon which we would like to focus in 2006. Tonight I will limit my comments to 5 minutes. In so doing it will be impossible to go into great depth concerning the accomplishments of the past year and the means of accomplishing our goals for next year. In this brief time I cannot cover every event, activity, organization, individual or program so I apologize in advance to anyone or group that I have not mentioned.
2006 will be a year of challenges, choices, and changes. These challenges, choices, and changes will cover and impact all town resources including people, equipment, money, land, time, and technology.
We begin the year with some new people in important positions. New Councilwoman Betty Koval replaces retired councilman Bruce Cornell and brings extensive knowledge and experience to her position. She has hit the ground running and is assuming many important duties including senior citizen committee chairman. David Hall replaces retired superintendent Grant Seymour. He has already begun his work as highway superintendent and was tested with a snowstorm on the very first night of his assumption of duties. He passed the test and has performed with excellence. Jim Gorham replaces Joyce Shaver and has begun his duties as Tax Collector. He has been immersed with his duties for nearly a month and has brought a wealth of experience and knowledge to the position. Our new officials are replacing former town employees that served the town for over 75 years. Mike McLoughlin begins a fourth 4-year term as town councilman. His breadth and depth of knowledge and regular contact with a multitude of town residents will provide the board with needed grassroots feedback. Town Clerk Ruthie Drumm begins her second two-year term. She has developed extensive knowledge of town rules, regulations and procedures and provides all town residents with timely response to all of their needs and requests. As town supervisor I am beginning my second two-year term and eagerly look forward to the challenges that the town will be facing. My first term allowed me to identify and initiate several new actions such as property tax exemption adjustments, zoning amendments, and improved communications between the town and its residents. This year there will other changes in committee membership and clerical positions. Our continuing town officials are re-motivated and energized to perform their duties and serve the residents of the town in the best way possible. We are here to serve the town residents and must never forget that. We will always listen to and take seriously the requests and concerns of all town residents. Communication is the key and efforts will be increased to enhance communication. Having said that we must also be realistic and recognize that we cannot necessarily satisfy the needs and desires of all town residents on every issue. Our actions will reflect the desires of the majority with a respect for the views of the minority.
I begin my third year as supervisor in a town that in most every respect continues to be in excellent condition. Many of the issues that we will be facing in 2006 result from the facts that we live in a town that is a very desirable place in which to live and do business, that we have low taxes, and that the economic conditions and climate are healthy.
Our Town continues to be 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 continues to be the best it has ever been. This year construction should start on a new rescue squad building on Route 29 near Louden Road. The three fire districts serving the town have well trained members and excellent equipment. Recruitment of new members must be an ongoing, high priority activity. Incentives such as Length of Service Award Program and a county tax reduction programs have recently been enacted and should help recruit new and maintain experienced members. The Quaker Springs Fire department is making excellent progress in the establishment of a satellite Fire station near Saratoga Lake. Correction of some of the 9-1-1 numbers is being done. Rick Drew is recognized for his efforts on our behalf with the county emergency services program.
Organizations like our churches, the Old Saratoga Historical Association, Lions, Rotary, the Garden Club, Farm Bureau, our senior citizens organizations, the library board, youth commission members, Old Saratoga Athletic Association, the American Legion, Fish and Game Clubs, and the cemetery association, are recognized and highly praised 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. The Quaker Springs Mineral Water Park is now owned by the town of Saratoga and will be further developed this year. The LWRP, the Lakes to Locks and The Old Saratoga on the Hudson plan and all of its components will be supported as well as events and activities such as the Turning Point Parade and Eighteenth century day 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 Counties will be built upon and expanded. Our town has great cooperation and relations with our representatives such as our 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 continued.
The Saratoga Lake Association is recognized for their efforts in protecting Saratoga Lake. They are leading the fight to keep Saratoga Lake from being used as a source of drinking water by the city of Saratoga Springs. SLIPD and the Town of Saratoga have recently applied for a 1.2 million dollar EPF grant to further improve the quality of Saratoga 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. This past year we added $145,000 to the town hall reserve account and established a town park fund into which we placed $50,000. 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. When compared to our neighboring similar towns we have a low tax rate. Again this year the county tax rate to town residents was reduced by applying $100,000 of the sales tax revenue against town resident county tax bills. Only one other town in Saratoga County did this.
This past year our equalization rate dropped to 91.69%. This year our assessor will work at reviewing neighborhoods and making adjustments as appropriate. Since the county distributes sales tax revenue based on assessed property value, maintaining accurate assessment roles will be critical. This will insure fairness to all residents and result in maximum county sales tax distribution to the town.
The Town board is experienced, broad based, and eager to conduct the business of the town. Their diverse background and broad based track record and experiences will prove very beneficial in our dealings with difficult issues.
Our Town clerk and her deputy continue their positions with increased and enhanced working knowledge of the job responsibilities. Their computer skills, knowledge, and human relation skills are superb. Their goal is to serve all residents in an efficient, prompt, and professional way.
The Town of Saratoga Highway department crew continues to be second to none. The crew is experienced, dedicated, hard working, and professional. They take their job seriously and do the very best job possible. Our roads are in great shape. They are well engineered, maintained and cared for. The recent upgrades to Burgoyne Road and Grange Hall road illustrate the skills and knowledge of our highway department employees. The town has adequate equipment with a maintenance and replacement schedule that insures that it is up to date and operates at top performance. This past year new equipment was acquired to replace worn out equipment.
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. Members are regularly attending training sessions. Too often they are unjustly criticized.
Our town justices, court clerks, town attorney, and constable have experience, training, and motivation to conduct the legal business of the town in a fair, just, and responsible manner.
Our Historian and deputy historian obtained a record management grant and are organizing and cataloging town materials.
A cooperative working relationship between the Schuylerville-Victory joint water commission and the town of Saratoga will be encouraged. We want to investigate ways in which the water board and town can work together to provide water to town residents at a equal rate. A request has been submitted to Senator Bruno for a new water line on Rt. 4 north of Schuylerville.
In 2005 we initiated property tax relief for disabled residents and increased the amount of allowable exemptions for eligible veterans.
We developed a town personnel manual. New computers have replaced older outdated computers.
Our insurance policy has been amended to increase the liability protection for the town. A broker has been appointed to represent the town and its employees when MVP Health Plan concerns arise.
Communication and input by residents at town board meetings has been increased by adding an opportunity for resident input prior to board action on agenda items.
Bryant’s Bridge will be replaced during the summer of 2006.
Twelve issues of a town newsletter and town calendar were printed and posted on the internet. In addition all town board, planning board, and zoning board of appeals minutes were posted on the internet.
Having touted all of the strengths and assets of the town it would seem that 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.
There are a number of major issues facing the town that must be completed this year. Many of these issues were identified and started last year but have not yet been brought to completion. These issues will serve as the basis for many of our goals in 2006.
Our zoning amendment advisory committee worked hard last year and made substantial progress. On February 7th we will have our first public presentation of the initial work of the committee. We will be looking for further public reaction and input on the first draft. Following modification and adjustments, formal public hearings will be scheduled. Enactment of the new regulations by June is our goal. The town is under great development pressure. Last year the zoning ordinance was amended twice. The amendments changed allowed uses, increased the fees charged, and changed specific requirements for allowed uses. One of our priorities will be to continue review and update the zoning ordinance. Initial steps have already been taken to establish an Individual Water Well Requirements and Regulations section that will be added to the zoning ordinance. Other areas of changes include a mass gathering law and adult business regulations. We must protect the rights of residents without being unfair to other property owners that wish to sell or develop their property. We also will be making our zoning law and forms more user friendly and more complete. Before the end of 2006 all current laws and town documents will be codified and made available to all on the internet. This past year we have made serious attempts to see that the town zoning ordinances were enforced. Violators were brought to town and county court and violations were remediated. These included operating businesses without permits in unauthorized zones, bringing other businesses into compliance, condemning unsafe properties, and cleaning up lots and removing trailers and unlicensed cars. More remains to be done and will be done in this area.
Our town hall building committee has been working hard and meeting regularly for the past year. We surveyed the town residents, reviewed a number of possible sites, and determined desired functions and space needs. We have made progress but also have identified additional research that needs to be completed. A series of public information sessions will be conducted and ultimately a vote will be scheduled.
Efforts will continue to keep Saratoga Lake from being used as a reservoir for by the City of Saratoga Springs. We are working with the Saratoga Glen Hollow Water Corporation to have the private water system line extended along Rt. 9P in the town of Saratoga. We are also working with the county Sewer District to have the sewer line on 9P increased in capacity.
Efforts to secure more land and develop a town park will continue. The Quaker Sprigs Mineral Water Park will be enhanced and made a pleasurable recreation destination.
The town emergency plan will be updated. A broad based committee will be formed and the plan enhanced to devise appropriate responses for the numerous emergency situations that could potentially develop. We will continue to work with the General Schuyler Emergency Squad and all fire departments assisting them in providing emergency services to all of our town residents. New initiatives are under way that will improve fire service to the Saratoga Lake area.
Enactment of a sexual predator law needs to be implemented. The soon to be completed county ordinance will serve as our guideline.
A town financial procedural audit will be initiated in the next few months. This will enable us to determine if there are better ways of doing things.
We want to preserve, protect, and foster the things that make the Town of Saratoga a great place in which to live and work. We recognize that change is inevitable. It cannot be stopped, but can be controlled and monitored. Creating a strong economic base, increased tax assessment, and creating jobs for town residents will be important. We want development that does not place demands on our infrastructure including the school district.
Staff development for all town officials and employees will continue to 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. Communication by everyone needs to be complete, accurate, truthful, and not misleading. 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. I will continue to emphasize research based, data driven shared decision making. 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. The town web page is being re-configured and will become more user friendly.
I want to encourage organizations within the town to report regularly to the town board with regard to accomplishments, concerns, and needs. With this information the town board can become involved and help meet the needs of the organizations.
In summary I encourage all residents of the town to be informed, to participate, and to work cooperatively with spirit and enthusiasm. We all want to see our town be the best possible town that it can be.
We have great things happening and we are going to build on these successes. It is with enthusiasm and excitement that we will move forward and meet the challenges in 2006.