By Cheryl St. George and Stan Radwan
Certain truths appear to escape the Evans Town Board. First, it’s never a good time to raise property taxes. Second, when you’re in a hole, stop digging. And third, don’t say you’re following the voters’ will when in fact you’re thumbing your nose at us.
Since 2012, Evans has been a government teetering on the brink of fiscal disaster. That year, the state comptroller blasted our government for shoddy record-keeping. After politicians did nothing to correct the problems, the comptroller found in a follow-up review that Evans’ “financial records were inaccurate, incomplete and unreliable,” and there was no way of knowing the true condition of town finances.
When state officials finally sorted through the “disarray” of town records, they discovered that more than $2 million of Evans water project money had been put into the general fund instead, and never repaid.
Fast forward to this month. The Town Board, which has raised taxes a whopping 20 percent in the last two years, announced it wants to add two more politicians – along with their salaries and benefits – on the back of taxpayers. This, mind you, after Evans residents in 2009 voted by a 2-1 margin to downsize the board to three members – the typical board size in towns throughout America. And as the politicians scheduled a November upsizing vote, they claimed that a citizen petition required them to do so.
That turns out to be false. Evans Taxpayers United obtained a letter dated May 18 from the county Board of Elections to the Evans board, advising it that the “upsizing” petition was invalid for lack of required signatures.
Evans politicians have every right to force town voters to speak again on the cost of our government. But they have no right to lie about the fact that they are doing it on their own, and without any public support.
In the midst of these clouds, we bear news of sunshine. Working with concerned residents throughout Evans, our organization has researched ways to reduce town costs and save taxpayer money.
We found that Evans can save millions over time, and substantially reduce our debt, by folding our police force into the county Sheriff’s Department. Towns throughout New York State, including Elma and Clarence, deliver law enforcement services in this manner. And they all enjoy superb public safety and lower taxpayer costs.
To express town opinion, we’re circulating a petition calling for public hearings leading to a referendum on reducing police costs through merger with the Sheriff’s Department. We will submit to the board more than five times the number of signatures to save taxes by consolidating services than the board obtained to raise taxes by adding politicians.
And when we do, we expect the board to extend the same respect to our savings petition that members gave to their spending petition.
Cheryl St. George is chairwoman of Evans Taxpayers United. Stan Radwan is a town resident and retired law enforcement official, with 35 years on the job.