Please excuse my French, but...Déshabiller Pierre pour habiller Paul est de la merde de taureau pur !
An interesting subject was introduced to the town board table at the June 8, 2016 town board meeting. Supervisor Tyksinski informed the board that the 2016 fire contracts needed to be amended because the initial contracts included some expenditures that were part of the tax rate but were not to be included as part of the contract. According to Tyksinski, letters were sent out to the fire departments notifying them of the discrepancies.
The discrepancy for the village fire department is easy to explain; the tax rate included the fire district's portion to retire the bond sold to pay the Sangertown certiorari. After some explanation, the town board approved the amended contract for the village fire department with no problem.
However, the Willowvale contract was not so simple. Councilman Messa told the board that the Willowvale Fire Company was upset because their 2016 contract for fire protection was reduced by about $20,000 and he inquired why that happened.
Supervisor Tyksinski said it was to pay their share of the town's 2016 Workers' Compensation expense; the Willowvale Fire Co. is covered under the town's contract with Oneida County.
According to Tyksinski, prior to the 2016 budget, the town covered the entire bill, but the cost was increasing to the point where the town could no longer afford to pay on behalf of the fire company.
Councilman Messa tried to convince Tyksinski to let it go for this year in order to give them time to adjust for the additional expense next year. After all, a reduction of $20,000 is a lot for a small fire company to absorb without prior notice. The discussion seemed to die at the table with no action taken to amend the contract.
The whole scenario just didn't seem to fit together so I viewed the videotape of the meeting to see what I might have missed. I then looked at the 2016 budget for the Willowvale Fire Company; that's when it became apparent that things weren't quite as told by Tyksinski at the June 8th meeting.
For one thing, it appeared that the Willowvale fire contract was indeed cut about $20,000 from the prior year's budget, but the residents in the fire district were also taxed in 2016 for $22,600 which was also tagged in the budget as being workers' compensation expense.
After a few Google searches it occurred to me that unless there are a lot of claims filed for the fire company, $22,600 would seem to be a considerable amount to pay a year for workers' comp. The only way to definitively find out was to submit a FOIL request to the town clerk for all documentation for the 2015 & 2016 workers' comp expense including purchase orders, vouchers and cancelled checks along with the invoices and any other documentation on file at the town.
Can you imagine my surprise when I received the documentation I requested and found out that the voucher, purchase order and cancelled fire district account check written to the Oneida County Workers' Compensation Fund on February 19, 2016 all indicated that the expense attributed to the fire company for their portion of the 2016 workers' comp expense was actually $1,720; not the $22,600 that Willowvale taxpayers paid in their 2016 town taxes!
That would mean that over $20,000 had nothing to do with paying the workers' comp expense that was collected from unsuspecting taxpayers in the Willowvale Fire District...not to mention the fact that the fire company was also about to be shorted about $20,000 in their 2016 contract.
So where did the extra money go? Was it applied to another town account having nothing to do with the fire district in order to cover a shortfall somewhere else? That sounds like a good question for Supervisor Tyksinski, Finance Officer Dan Dreimiller and Councilman Messa!
Under what authority did Supervisor Tyksinski unilaterally reduce the contract of a private fire company in the 2016 budget and why was there no public discussion prior to the adoption of the budget? Aren't contracts usually negotiated?
Why didn't the June 8th town board discussion disclose all the facts? Did Tyksinski forget to mention that he also taxed the residents an additional $22,600 to pay for the same workers compensation expense? Listen to Tyksinski's explanation of what would need to be done if the board chose to pay the 2016 expense on behalf of the fire company this year and wait until next year to charge them. Incredible!
One thing is clear, merely cutting the fire district contract would not have netted the town any additional money; the district also had to be taxed for the workers' comp expense in order for the town to see additional revenue to pay the supposed rising workers compensation expense. If the fire company contract was not decreased, the additional $22,600 would have caused an increase in the 2016 fire district tax rate which might have raised some questions prior to the adoption of the 2016 budget. However, because no red flags went up during the October/November budget discussions, the 2016 town budget was adopted without question. Sounds like a carefully thought out plan done at the top rung of the ladder to me.
So many more questions (too many to go into here); however, I am sure that Tyksinski would have an answer for each one of them; the answers might be plain b/s, but there never seems to be a lack of b/s answers coming from him. Plus it is so easy to b/s the members of this town board...just listen to the video! Totally shameful!
At any rate, in the end the town board did not adopt a resolution to amend the Willowvale contract. According to the June 8th town board minutes (here is a pdf copy of the entire section of the board minutes explaining the town board's version of what took place at the June 8th meeting):
No action was taken to amend the 2016 Fire Contract for District 4; the contract amount for 2016 shall remain $318,198.By the way, if you live in the Higby Road Water District, you might want to know that according to the information in both the 2014 & 2015 Financial Statement prepared by D'Arcangelo & Co., your district was identified as paying to retire the bond sold to pay for installation of air conditioning in three (3) town buildings. I have absolutely no idea what air conditioning has to do with a water district or why D'Arcangelo's audit claims the bond to be a debt of the Higby Road Water District for the past two years!
Councilman Messa asked the Finance Director to contact the Willowvale Fire Co., Inc. again about this matter.
Just saying...deja vous anyone?
Here is the excerpt from the June 8th town board meeting:
In case anyone is interested, here is a pdf of the FOILed documents I received regarding workers' comp for the Willowvale Fire Company and a copy of the 2016 fire district budget. I have highlighted the pertinent information.