By HEATHER NELLIS
FONDA -- Tuesday marked the end of an era in Montgomery County -- the last-sitting board of supervisors held its final meeting.
As always, the first formal collective action of the meeting was a salute to the American flag, then the board went through the motions as it would at any other meeting.
But, the final action was a resolution scheduling the organizational meeting of the county legislature.
A charter approved by the county's voters in November 2011 transfers governing powers from the 15-member board of supervisors to a nine-member legislature and executive-at-large, effective Jan. 1.
There was little fanfare to mark the end of the county's default form of government. Instead, Florida town Supervisor William Strevy requested the floor thank Chairman John Thayer, Root's supervisor, for his service leading the board for the past year and three months.
Thayer was appointed chairman in October 2012, upon the untimely death of former Chairman Shayne Walters.
"It's been fulfilling following him. I thought he was an upstanding person who tried to do his best," Thayer said from the dais. "He might not have been the most polished, or best educated person, but he did what he thought was best for the county. To follow him has been an honor."
Thayer, who served six years, also thanked his fellow supervisors.
"I appreciate your concern for Montgomery County," Thayer said. "I believe we will leave the county in as good of shape as we possibly could have."
The county's taxpayers might agree with Thayer, as the board on Tuesday approved a $101 million budget for 2014 that carries an average 3 percent tax decrease.
That's thanks to $4 million in fund balance budgeted to balance the plan. There was a last-ditch effort from city supervisors Jeffrey Stark and Vito "Butch" Greco, Amsterdam town Supervisor Thomas DiMezza, and Minden Supervisor Thomas Quackenbush to reduce the amount, but no one else would vote for it.
"Absolutely not," was Thayer's vote.
The county was criticized by the state comptroller's office in an October audit for what was described as an over-reliance on fund balance in the county's spending plans. The comptroller's office believes the board hasn't adopted balanced, realistic budgets in years.
"I don't believe this is a realistic budget," Greco said.
Quackenbush agreed, and pulled his sponsorship from the resolution to adopt the budget.
St. Johnsville Supervisor Dominick Stagliano pointed out there is a difference between appropriating fund balance and using fund balance.
In 2012, $4.5 million in fund balance was appropriated, but the fund balance actually grew by $1.5 million. He cited other similar instances in the past.
"Don't be afraid to appropriate fund balance. If history is any experience, it won't cost you a penny," Stagliano said.
Differences of opinion aside, supervisors expressed pride in their service, and gave credit to the county's employees for their work.
"We did the best we could, and I was very proud to serve with the board. I wish to thank all the department heads for a job well done. The county would not be where it is now without you. I wish the new legislators the best," said Greco.