Saturday, May 30, 2009

TnT Saga (or: Et tu, Toni and Terry?)

I've really been doing my best to learn about the lawsuit.  I've talked to the mayor and supervisor, waded through various comptroller's opinions, been shown laws and budgets, and I've even been given some competing history lessons.  Finally, I consulted Guy Visk's Magic 8-Ball.  I wasn't happy with the results.

Let me try to get my head around the two positions.  I've gotten some pretty wordy explanations that I will try to summarize, and I'm confident that any mistakes I make will be quickly and politely corrected.

What is agreed upon by all is that Town taxes are divided into two parts:  stuff all residents pay for (the A fund) and stuff that only people not in the Village pay for (the B fund).  The B fund is for things that the Village takes care of on its own, and taxes Village residents for directly.  The rescue squad contract with the town was, up until some point during Don Wilen's adminstration, a single agreement with the Town and charged to the A fund - everybody paid their share because everybody could need these guys.  During Wilen's tenure, the contract was split in two, each municipality paying its own share.  The Town's contract was charged to the B fund.  Toni Hokanson placed those charges in the A fund.

Terry:  The Town's contract for ambulance services specifically states that it is for Town residents that do not live within the limits of the Village.  This means that Village residents are not only paying for their ambulance services directly, they're also paying roughly 25% of the Town's contract, as well.  This is not okay.

Toni:  The contract was placed back in the A fund because the New York State Comptroller indicated that it's the only legal place to put it.  The clause in the contract limiting service to residents outside the village is illegal, because the Comptroller said that services are provided on a town-wide basis.  Further, the Comptroller said that if a village in these circumstances wanted its own contract, it needs to be one that provides additional services beyond what Village residents would already get based on the Town contract.  The Village contract is actually the problem.

Terry:  The Comptroller's opinion doesn't actually say that services are automatically provided town-wide, only that it assumes that they are.  That's a different story.  The Town's contract is binding, and the Village is paying more than it should.

Toni:  The reason the contracts were split was because the Village residents were paying artificially low rates.  The contract is based upon a formula deriving from assessments - Village residents pay a portion based on their portion of the Town's assessed property values (right now about 24%).  When there was one joint contract, the Village paid that portion, plus an additional amount to reflect the fact that about half of all ambulance calls are within Village limits.  This extra amount was reflected in Village taxes even then.  The two contracts were apparently written to simplify this process, but the Town's portion still should be in the A fund, as the Comptroller indicates, so that everyone is paying for the level of service being received.

So does the Town's contract make some sort of de facto ambulance district, like I think Terry is claiming, or does it just include a mistaken line that is misleading to those uninitiated into the complexities of Town budgeting, which is the sense I got from Toni?  And what about that Magic 8-Ball?  I asked it, "Will this be able to be resolved without going to court?

Guy's 8-Ball is pretty old, and it's got all manner of air bubbles in it that sometimes don't let you get an answer for a couple of tries.  When I did get one I could read, though, it said, "My answer is no."

1 comment:

kt tobin flusser said...

dk, my heads starts spinning around paragraph 3 or 4... really court was/is the only recourse? did refer to guy kempe's eight ball? (LO freakin L!)