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Of Budgets
And Mushrooms

By Nathan Mayberg
WURTSBORO — November 18, 2005 – While the Town of Mamakating Board’s meeting on Tuesday was not without controversy, its most significant act was to pass its budget – which will raise property taxes approximately 2 percent, according to figures provided by outgoing Supervisor Charles Penna.
The budget was ratified unanimously by the board Tuesday evening after putting the final touches on the document, which will increase the property rate by about $10.20 per $120,000 of assessed property value, said Penna.
The controversy over the mushroom plant has no end in sight. Noted opponent Eileen Weil peppered the board with questions over the decision by the Zoning Board of Appeals to bring on new counsel to handle their approval for the plant’s three zoning variances. The ZBA has no authority to pay for counsel, although it can hire outside consultants in certain situations.
The law appears to be vague, and town attorney Richard Stoloff declined to elaborate on the legal questions, because he and Penna both said the issue will likely end up in court.
Weil maintained that ZBA attorney Ira Cohen should still be sitting at the table next to the board. Instead, Cohen’s advice was shouted down by ZBA Chairman Jim Barnett, who threatened to kick Cohen out of the town hall for doing so.
Stoloff said the ZBA has a right to ask another attorney for advice. And they don’t have to ask their attorney to sit in on a particular meeting.
Weil said it was the town’s job to protect its citizens and that the town board’s appointment of Cohen to the board should not have been overruled by the ZBA.
In other business, Penna pushed through a resolution which will give 75 percent health coverage to town workers who retire with 20 years of service and 1,000 sick hours remaining. For employees who retire after 25 years of continuous duty and 1,200 hours of sick time remaining, they will be given 100 percent health coverage.
Councilwoman Judith Young attempted to delay the measure, stating she wanted time to consult with the town’s advisers as to how it would affect the town budget. Penna said the move had been dragged on for too long.
Councilman John Moriarty supported the bill and stated the accountant told him only four people would qualify.
Penna quickly called for a vote and received support from Moriarty and Councilwoman Regina Saunders. Young and Salamone abstained.
Afterwards, Penna said the bill would not assist those already retired from the town. Currently, retirees receive 50 percent coverage for health care. New retirees can still choose to cash out their sick time and receive 50 percent of their health care coverage.
Among the pay raises in the budget are:
• Town attorney Richard Stoloff: From $42,500 to $49,000
• Justices Joel Welsh and Marcelle Matthews: From $20,000 to $23,000
• Assessor Alane Romer: From $49,000 to $50,715 (although that number could be slightly lower, according to Penna)
• Building Inspector Dave Brown: $45,000 to $46,575
• Code Enforcement Officer: $39,200 to $40,572.

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