Carthage budget woes

Watertown Daily Times
Residents rage over Carthage budget
NOT ALL ARE HEARD: Issues include tax hike, Militello’s residence
Date: Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Section: Jefferson
Edition: Both
Page: A1
Dateline: CARTHAGE
Illustration: B/W photo by Jacob Hannah Watertown Daily Times

   More than 100 residents attended the Carthage Central School District’s annual budget hearing Tuesday night, and they were cut off after more than two hours of animated discussion.”I hope the board really internalized how irate the community is about these constant increases in the budget,” said Charles A. Florence, Carthage. “I hope the budget is voted down and I hope the board takes everybody’s anger and turns it into hard work in reducing the budget.”
    More than a dozen people took the floor in the high school auditorium to voice concerns about the 6.8 percent increase in the tax levy, which recently has been decreased from a 9.8 percent increase, the number of administrative positions, the $21.2 million construction project and the fact that Superintendent Carl H. Militello doesn’t have to live in the school district. Several called for his resignation.
    “What gives you the right to spend my money while the superintendent drives up the friggin’ tax levy, drives a Mercedes Benz and lives in Sackets Harbor?” Mr. Florence asked the board.
    When asked directly why he doesn’t live in the district, Mr. Militello said that more than 20 percent of school superintendents in the state aren’t required to do so, adding that the Board of Education included an exemption for him in his contract. He didn’t say why he doesn’t want to live in the district.
    Michael P. Chevier, a candidate for the school board, also spoke.
    “Our school district has become an organization that is top-heavy on leadership at the expense of the taxpayers and children of this community,” he said. “I ask that every resident of the district takes the information tonight, reviews it, discusses it with your family, friends and neighbors and make your voting decision. On May 20, I will be voting no to the school budget. I ask that the voters of this school district send a resounding message to this school board that we have had enough.”
    At 9:18 p.m., board President John E. Peck tried to close the hearing, but West Carthage Mayor Scott M. Burto jumped to the residents’ defense and said the meeting should be open until everyone had a chance to comment. At approximately 9:40 p.m., everyone still had not been heard, but Mr. Peck closed the meeting.
    “They didn’t advertise a closing time and there were still people who wanted to be heard, and the public hearing is the place for that. I’m disappointed that they closed the meeting early,” Mr. Burto said. “I am going to vote no on this budget because I can’t support this. I hope this opened some of their eyes as to how concerned the citizens are.”
    Mr. Militello said the meeting was “productive in some aspects.”
    “It definitely cleared up some of the issues, and their messages have been received,” he said. “There is a bunch of misinformation that is perpetually being sent out there and it’s hard for everyone to sort through.”
    Board member Barbara A. Lofink said, “There were a few rough spots and there were a few that had their own agenda that had nothing to do with the budget. But we’ve heard the taxpayers’ comments, and it’s going to be tough.”
    The overall budget would rise from $44,855,139 to $49,942,629. The public vote is from noon to 9 p.m. May 20 in the high school library.


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