GOP primary candidates consider taxes
YATES COUNTY--The Yates County Republican Primary Election will be held Thursday, Sept. 10 for both county and town positions. As budgets and tax increases have been a contentious issue in the county recently, The Observer asked each candidate, "Is it a smart or short-sighted idea to take a position of not increasing taxes and figuring out a way to manage the government without a tax increase in order to make up for the previous years of tax increases? Would you be willing to take such a stance?"
While many of the candidates advocated for spending cuts or keeping the tax growth at or below the rate of inflation, few candidates outright said they supported a policy of "no new taxes." Their responses are listed below:
Legislative District 1
• Edward Bronson: "A goal of not increasing taxes is the ideal. Unfortunately, reality is that there are many costs beyond the control of county legislature -- state mandates, health care costs, utilities, etc. The challenge is to find a way to fund local government to offer a quality life for the citizens."
• Bradley Jones: "I would prefer to focus on cutting spending across the board. Start with a goal of cutting spending by 5 percent each year. Then build a budget that incorporates these reductions. We need to get serious about fiscal responsibility and stop spending whatever we can get away with."
• Gary Montgomery (incumbent): "Development of the Yates County budget is serious work. My objective is to produce a smart budget that is at or below the less than 1 percent New York State tax cap. Ideally that will be accomplished with no tax increase."
• Elden Morrison (incumbent): "Such pledges are too often political showmanship and are broken within days because of 'changing conditions.' My commitment to the taxpayers of Yates County is through me, they have a prominent seat at the table. That is a pledge I made two years ago, have honored, and will remake today."
• Douglas Paddock (incumbent): "We are elected to make prudent, fiscally responsible decisions on behalf of the public, each of which requires thorough examination. Given the variety of circumstances that might arise in the future and the needs of the county, a stance such as this, while popular, is not realistic."
Legislative District 3
• Dan Banach (incumbent): "As a candidate, to make any prediction as to what may happen in regards to tax increases is impossible, as a legislator you have a responsibility to run government as effectively and as prudently as possible. The only way to reduce government is to reduce programs and people."
• Leslie Church (incumbent): "Raising taxes is always difficult. It should only be done when all cuts have been considered. Failing to raise taxes is short-sighted when it affects the solvency of the government. There are services mandated by the state and those citizens expect. My position has always been limited effective government."
• Marsha Devine: "As a fiscal conservative, my goal is to minimize tax increases and keep Yates County affordable for families and seniors. To take an absolute position of not increasing taxes at all is unrealistic and fiscally irresponsible. I am for cost effective, efficient government that works for the people it represents."
• P. Earle Gleason: "You can't make up for previous tax increases because the cost of running the county government is going to increase no matter what you do. Having been a part of the county budget process, I know all department heads take some very creative measures to minimize their agencies' spending."
• Bill Laffin: "I support keeping the cost of Yates County government in line with counties of similar economic profiles. Any actions leading to growth in the size of government and adds to the tax burden should be rejected. Taxes must be appropriate for economic conditions and budgets must not exceed inflation increases."
• Mark Morris (incumbent): "I have been taking a stance that over the longer term the tax levy should not grow faster than the rate of inflation (ROI). Our tax levy increases over the last decade have grown significantly higher than the ROI. Multi-year increases greater than the ROI are not sustainable."
• Robert Schwarting: "It is not only short-sighted, it is bad management to not increase taxes for three years out of five and then slapping a huge increase on taxpayers, as was done several years ago. It is bad management to not repair roofs, roads or other infrastructure benefitting businesses and taxpayers."
Yates County Clerk
• Virginia Fenton: "Personally, I don't want an increase to property taxes, no citizen does. As county clerk, I will strive to maintain revenue and expenses at the county clerk's office, which is one of the highest revenue generating offices at Yates County from collecting fees for recording and filing Yates County documents."
• Lois Hall: "When submitting and managing the budget to the legislature, I would curtail expenditures as much as possible without jeopardizing mandated services. With office revenues currently exceeding operating costs and the excess off-setting taxes, I would promote local DMV and other services to maintain revenues to avoid a tax increase."
Yates County Coroner
• Brian Champlin: Did not respond by press time deadline.
• Ronald Dailey (incumbent): "While 'no tax increase' might be a wonderful sound bite, I would never stake a claim to any position which made the job of legislator more difficult than it already is. As the county coroner, if re-elected I will continue to uphold the office with integrity, compassion and professionalism."
• Paul Anderson: "Keeping taxes in line should always be an ongoing process. Quite often a different point of view can bring forth a great idea on how to reduce them. The public must realize there is inflation and uncontrollable circumstances like last year's floods that can impact any budget."
• Tim Cutler: "I would be willing to make a pledge to not increase taxes. We should be willing to examine government processes using a zero-based approach and not do things just because it's the way we've traditionally done them. It may be difficult, but living within our means is never easy."
• Daryl Jones (incumbent): "I do not support a tax freeze. I feel it is delaying the inevitable. Every year costs go up. If we freeze this year will we need a larger tax next year? Jerusalem has kept increases to approximately 2 percent. I see this as being financially responsible for our taxpayers."
• Dale Hallings (incumbent): "The short answers are, short- sighted and no. I believe at the town level in which I have been involved with for 12 years this would not be possible without letting town infrastructure go downhill. And I believe anyone who thinks different must be trying to garner votes."
• Mark Morris: See above response.
• Arden Sorensen Jr. (incumbent): Did not respond by press time deadline.
• Brian Bootes: Did not respond by press time deadline.
• Terry Button said it is difficult to make a no tax statement without first looking at the budget, adding many residents have come to expect certain services from the government.
"You can't spend more than you bring in," Button said. "There is only so much money to go around."
• Steve Faulkner said he does not want high taxes, but added the years of flooding have caused issues, with little money to work with.
"I have to research what I have to work with and what needs to get done," Faulkner said. "And there is a lot to get done."
• Scott Jones: Did not respond by press time deadline.