Dept. heads want more: County officials make pitches at budget review


FONDA -- Several department heads bemoaned of aging equipment, and more work than people to complete it, when pitching budget requests to the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors' Finance Committee Tuesday.

"I've been here three years, and I haven't asked for anything because I know the county is having money problems," said Dan Colon, the director of Data Processing. "But things are starting to break. You'll probably hear it from every department."

Colon was one of four department heads to appear before the committee. Clerk Helen Bartone, Real Property Tax Service Agency Director Sandra Frasier, and Republican Election Commissioner Terrance Smith were the others.

Most department head requests for manpower and equipment were not included in Treasurer Shawn Bowerman's tentative budget released Oct. 1. Had he honored all requests, it would have amounted to an additional $1.5 million in the $101 million plan, he said Friday.

"Each day we're asked to do more with less," said Bartone. She asked for two new positions, citing increased mandates and regulations from the state, impact from the SAFE Act, and takeover of pistol permitting from the courts.

Bartone brought Department of Motor Vehicles Clerk Patricia Young to relay some of the workload issues.

One introduced this week is a state directive in response to a New York City scandal in which DMV workers allegedly helped commercial driver license applicants cheat on their tests.

"We have to pull a cashier off the window to sit in a tiny room and stare at a person taking their test," Young said. "We had some people from Schenectady County here this week taking their CDL test, and they were here for three hours. We think they were trying to pull something, because they failed miserably.

"There's a good need for it, but it's causing longer lines and angry customers because there's not enough people to do the work," Young continued, later citing issues with aging tools like calculators.

Colon asked for several position upgrades, a new position, and multiple equipment purchases. But in an attempt to create a centralized, countywide technology budget, his own included purchase requests for servers at the Board of Elections and Probation Department, and a plotter printer for Real Property.

Bowerman cut Colon's equipment request in half, which will cause him to choose between the equipment for other departments, which are legally required, and his hopes to buy equipment lifts for disaster mitigation.

"We were lucky this year, but what happens when flooding hits again?" Colon asked, citing past replacement costs.

Committee chairman and St. Johnsville Supervisor Dominick Stagliano said the purpose of the meeting was to provide feedback to the committee, not make additions or subtractions to Bowerman's plan. The committee needs to craft its budget recommendation to the full board by Oct. 21.

While they offered no guarantees in honoring the budget requests, supervisors provided suggestions in rectifying several of the issues presented.

In the case at the DMV, Amsterdam 1st Ward Supervisor Vito "Butch" Greco suggested the department designate a specific day to host such license tests, and at a larger venue. He also suggested Colon look into leasing electronic equipment because of the fast evolution of software and hardware.

Colon was also able to relay his vision about the centralized IT department. He said he'd need the establishment of a formal policy to require approval from his office for all equipment purchases. It would standardize equipment and minimize unnecessary purchases, Colon said.

Frasier also relayed the need for a staff upgrade, and Smith spoke about temporary employees needed for elections.

Amsterdam 4th Ward Supervisor Barbara Wheeler attempted to delay the Board of Elections' department review for another time when Democratic Commissioner Jamie Duchessi could be present. He was reportedly absent for a family emergency.

Wheeler cited some alleged personal conflict between Smith and a sitting supervisor who claimed Duchessi "has not been a part of this or that."

Stagliano and several others cited time constraints in the 20-day window for crafting the budget recommendation, a conversation that prompted contention between Stagliano and board Chairman and Root Supervisor John Thayer.

Thayer was in the midst of suggesting a poll of the committee on rescheduling the review, when Stagliano interrupted him and crossly said that review could be delayed until an undetermined time. When Thayer finished, he told him he was disappointed by the interruption, Stagliano said it was because Thayer interrupted him at a recent meeting.

The budget review continues today at 4 p.m.