August 2, 2012
Copyright © 2012
Mid-Hudson News Network, a division of Statewide News Network, Inc.
Town supervisors oppose law enforcement commission
TOWN OF THOMPSON – Sullivan County's town supervisors have gone on record against the county legislature's proposal to create a law enforcement review panel to evaluate public safety spending in the county. It would consist of six unpaid positions with past experience in law enforcement and report to the legislature in October with a final review.
The proposal is being voted on in committee on Thursday, where it is expected to pass, but the county's association of supervisors is asking for the vote to be postponed so that it could be looked into further.
Thompson Town Supervisor Anthony Cellini said county lawmakers should hold off.
"We don't think there should be another added layer of bureaucracy. They should do the task at hand by themselves," he said.
Cellini said that with crime up in the county, cuts to the sheriff's department would be absurd and that they should instead look to curb tax exempt properties and restore them to the tax rolls.
Cellini, and others on the board of supervisors, felt that the legislature was "passing the buck" by bringing in outside consultants, and should instead interact directly with Sullivan County Sheriff Michael Schiff and other department heads through the statutory committee process.
Scott Samuelson, the legislature's chairman, was in attendance and said with six lawmakers new to the job this year, the panel's task would be only information gathering to help them in the decision-making process. The resolution was altered to change it from being called a "commission."
"We're looking for professionals who have a lot of knowledge in the business and just looking for advice. It's not a policy-making group, none of that," Samuelson said.
Democratic majority leader Kathleen LaBuda said the county was looking at a double-digit tax increase if they did not attempt to make cuts, and that no department could be sacred. Only $15 million of the county's $98 million budget is under their control, she said, and of that 30 percent is going to public safety. Town supervisors and police officials would be invited to sit with the law enforcement review panel, she assured.
While the sheriff admonished that his budget has grown by about $3 million in recent years, it was not by way of any expansion in the department, but instead contracted raises and health benefits. Schiff said they were "stretched to the max" as is, and that New York State Police would not be allocating additional resources in Sullivan County.
"As we stand now, we're down about 10 positions in our road patrol and we have cut quite a bit. I don't see where this commission helps. The only ones that are voted to represent the whole county are the legislators, and they should be dealing directly with us," said Schiff.
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