SOMERS, N.Y. – Democrat George Dieter is running Nov. 6 to fill a one-year vacancy on the Somers Town Board.
The Somers Daily Voice asked Dieter to fill out a questionnaire with basic information. Answers were limited to 150 words. Below are his answers.
Name: George Dieter
Age: 60 years old.
Family: Wife, Lois; children, Christine, Kevin and Patricia.
How long have you lived in town: About 23 years.
Party affiliation and ballot lines held: Democratic Party; Democratic, Independence and Working Families ballot lines.
Years in office: Not currently in office.
Other elected positions held: Served on school board (1994-2000) and Town Board (2006-2009).
Civic organizations: Conservation Board, Planning Board, president of the Somers High School Marching Band Parents Association.
What are the three biggest issues facing the town? These are difficult times for all levels of government. The key issues facing Somers right now involve maintaining our quality of life and maintaining a high level of town services in a difficult economy. And this must be done within a budget that does not adversely impact the taxpayers.
In the last three years, the town has cut a number of departments and services. We no longer have a full-time town engineer – these services are now provided by an outside engineer, who charges by the hour. This is probably a much more expensive way of providing these services. We no longer have a Conservation Board. This group of unpaid volunteers was designed to specialize in the environmental impact of pending development and to enforce the town’s environmental code, which impacts on our quality of life.
The town planner has been reduced to half-time, so those services have been severely curtailed. Funding for historic properties has also been severely cut, and that again impacts on our quality of life and our links to our historic past.
Perhaps most importantly, the funding to the library has been cut, to the point that the library has significant repairs that need to be done. If not for a recent grant of $50,000 by the state of New York, a leaky roof may not be repaired.
How would you address those issues? Obviously, some cuts are necessary and unavoidable. However, we need to plan for the current shortfalls in revenue, so that the impact on the town is minimized. Most recently it appears that the town’s revenue from sales tax has increased, while the revenue from mortgage tax is still below budget.
The Town Board must adequately address these revenue issues and institute long-range planning to deal with them.
Raising taxes is not an option, but we can’t plan around election-year state grant money or windfalls from the sale of town-owned property.
No one party or individual has all the answers. But the right answers will come from open and honest discussion amongst board members. That can only come about when a range of ideas is represented on the board.
I would suggest some of the following to promote savings and long-range financial planning:
- Establish a capital construction fund.
- Establish a central purchasing agent for all town departments and bid it out so that all departments can benefit from the best price.
- Establish a central maintenance and repair agent so that all departments would use the same maintenance and repair shops. And bid it out to make sure we get the best price.
- Work with established grant writers who can identify and aggressively pursue grant money to help pay for various projects here in Somers.
- Work closely with the Somers Energy Advisory Board to identify areas where we can save on energy dollars now and in the future.
- Work with the Somers school district to develop areas of mutual concern where both partners can save money by combining our efforts.
If you are an incumbent, what were your biggest achievements? If you are a challenger or running for an open seat, what would you do differently than the previous office holder? Not applicable.
Westchester is among the highest-taxed counties in the nation. What would you do to lower the tax burden? Be specific. See above.
Why should people vote for you? See above.