Let’s talk about money

Salaries, grants and decorum discussed at the Sullivan County Legislature

By LIAM MAYO
Posted 11/23/21

MONTICELLO, NY — The Sullivan County Legislature held a public hearing before its meetings on Thursday, November 18 to discuss a grant application from The Center for Discovery.

Jill Weyer, …

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Let’s talk about money

Salaries, grants and decorum discussed at the Sullivan County Legislature

Posted

MONTICELLO, NY — The Sullivan County Legislature held a public hearing before its meetings on Thursday, November 18 to discuss a grant application from The Center for Discovery.

Jill Weyer, deputy commissioner of the county’s planning department, explained that the center is applying for up to $2 million dollars in Community Development Block Grant funding.The funding would go toward portable air filtration units, to be placed across their campuses.

Weyer added that the center hoped to have the application in by Friday, December 5, a deadline that inspired some public comment.

“The process is lacking,” said Ken Walter, speaking after Weyer in the public hearing. Given the tight timeframe between the application’s appearance before the legislature and its submission, no other organizations could have the chance to be considered for that funding, he said.

And The Center for Discovery was a wealthy organization, one that was doing all right on its own, he added. “They don’t need this. They don’t need our help.”

Weyer responded with a point of clarification. Block grant funding accepted applicants on a rolling basis, she said. The planning department was open to working with any business to apply for a grant, and was currently working with two daycares on grant applications.

When the legislators discussed the application, several of them referenced Walter’s points.

Chairman Rob Doherty said that the center should be applauded for the work it did, without its finances being called into question over the grant application.

“They’re doing God’s work over there,” he said. “They’re absolutely doing work over there that is world-renowned work. We should be proud that they’re part of our community.

The block grant program was federally funded, added legislator Alan Sorensen. Taxpayers had already contributed those funds, and the only question was whether they would come back to Sullivan County.

The legislators voted 8-0 to authorize the application, with Mike Brooks abstaining.

Salaries

In executive committee, the legislature discussed a resolution setting Sheriff Mike Schiff’s salary at $110,000 for his upcoming term of office.

Legislator Nadia Rajsz asked why the resolution hadn’t gone before a committee. “When the DA was here… you gave her a run for her money, when she was asking for a raise.”

“This is a committee,” said Doherty. The results of the election had come out after Nicholas Salamone’s Public Safety and Law Enforcement Committee, he said, so it couldn’t be discussed then.

Legislator Luis Alvarez had a different question. “Where did this salary come from?” he asked. “Why so low?”

Sorensen offered reasons of fiscal prudence for the move, saying that there were a lot of county employees who were underpaid, and that the county was in the middle of negotiations with five unions.

He suggested a two-percent increase each year for the next four years, while cautioning that the county needed to come up with an overall plan to take care of everyone.

Alvarez agreed. “We have to set a tone for our county employees. I definitely think county employees should earn more money.”

The legislators decided to move discussion of the sheriff’s salary to a special meeting of the management and budget committee, tentatively scheduled for Tuesday, November 30 at 3 p.m. They also moved a separate resolution to that committee, one that set county treasurer Nancy Buck’s salary at $95,000.

Decorum and respect

While discussing the county’s budget, legislator Joe Perrello brought up an issue with county communications.

“I sent an email out to all my peers the other day… looking for some guidance on what we want to do with this and how we want to handle it, and I got no response,” Perello said.

He was tired of his legislative peers not responding to emails on county business, he said; he had questions about the budget process, and specific information about his department to share, and with the lack of response it seemed to be of no concern to anybody involved.

“If that’s how you’re all going to act, I’m going to call you out every time,” he added.

With the Department of Public Works being one of the largest in the county, it was generally handled during the budgetary process, said Doherty.

Rajsz had responded to Perello’s email, she said, but there was a lack of coordination in the budgetary process as a whole. In the past, the legislature would have meetings with the departments to answer questions and resolve issues, but nothing like that was taking place at present, she said.

There had just been a quick steering meeting about it, said legislator Ira Steingart. Three dates had been set up: Tuesday, November 30; Thursday, December 2; and Tuesday, December 7; all at 3 p.m..

“That’s great,” said Rajsz. “But we didn’t know about this.”

The dates had been set up with input from the majority leader and the minority leader, said Doherty. Those leaders would tell their caucuses from there.

Perello brought the conversation back to the question of communication after the dates were settled, asking again why no one had responded to his emails. He received no reply.

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