TOWN HALL IN ONEONTA
By JENNIFER HILL • Special to ALLOTSEGO.com
ONEONTA – Ask and you may receive.
“Cities like mine have maintained taxes at the state-mandated cap of two percent – even at zero percent, but state aid to municipalities have not increased in 10 years,” said Mayor Gary Herzig during a Town Hall with Oneonta’s Assemblyman John Salka, R-Brookfield, in Council chambers this evening. “Why won’t the legislature not step up to and provide aid to cities who are fighting to renew their infrastructure, economic development, maintain services, attract new people and prevent people from leaving?”
Salka began his answer suggesting the lack of state aid increases to cities was because the legislature was controlled by “downstate interests,” legislators did not understand what Upstate New York needed, and the governor thought “there were too many towns and cities” and “wanted things big.”
But Herzig cut him off.
“Let’s not blame the governor,” he said. “My question is, will you stand up in keeping aid to municipalities at least in par with the minimal amount of tax burden?
“Absolutely,” Salka replied. “I will work tirelessly for the cities in my district and for everyone.”
Dan Buttermann, who lost the 2018 Democratic primary to incumbent Bill Magee, D-121st, who then lost to Salka, asked him about his education priorities in the next session.
“I voted for the education bill for the budget – the one of 11 budget bills I supported,” responded Salka, himself a former school board president in his hometown.
He said as a parent of a child with special needs, he understood how important it was to have funding for students with special needs although he had to keep in mind that “it cost three times as much to educate a child with special needs.”
Seth Clark, a contender for the Second Ward seat on Common Council, voiced concern about 60 businesses going out of business in Oneonta over the past three years and the high rate of poverty.
While agreeing with Clark that the online giant Amazon had driven out many local businesses nationwide, Salka also cited high taxes in New York as a cause.
Scott Harrington, who is running the Sixth Ward in the fall, asked about the state having a “prevailing wage.”
“I think a prevailing wage should be applied to regions, not statewide because each region has different needs and expenses,” Salka said.
He said that a current effort to divide New York State into three autonomous regions, New York City, Long Island, and Upstate New York, is gaining ground and may make sense given how different the three regions were. They would still all be in New York State.
Salka’s town hall this evening was one in a series of town halls the assemblyman plans to hold throughout the 121st district in the coming weeks.