Milton Town Supervisor Scott Ostrander has dealt with a contentious political situation, both during the campaign season and in the early months of his term. But that hasn’t stopped him from moving forward with his plans to help stabilize the town’s budget and secure new business opportunities.
According to Ostrander, EFPR Accounting is closing up the town’s 2016 and 2017 books, and until they can see where the town’s financial standing is exactly, he has asked each department to cut back on spending to a minimum.
“We had our meeting with EFPR , myself and Darlene [Allen, the town’s Comptroller], and they said the 2016 books and 2017 should be closed within the next month or so, to get us an idea exactly where we’re at, to start from scratch,” Ostrander said.
“They [EFPR] said, ‘your finances is not looking good’.” Their suggestion was that we’re probably going to have to raise taxes again this year,” he added.
An accounting error made by the former comptroller and overlooked by the previous Town administration overstated revenues by $400k for three consecutive years resulting in a $1.2 million dollar deficit. Shortly after becoming a member of the town board as a councilman, Ostrander took the issue immediately to the NYS Comptroller’s office.
Ostrander was adamant that he was not opposed to the acquisition of Camp Boyhaven, recently bonded by the town with intent to purchase. However, he said that “I would be hard pressed to ask the tax payers, if we do run out of money, to take money from raising taxes to pay for Boyhaven.” The most likely plan, for now, involves Milton purchasing Boyhaven but having it locked up for several years until a decision can be made on how to repurpose the property for public use.
“At this point, the property is likely to be used as a “passive park once the buildings are demolished,” he stated.
There may be some good news coming for the Town of Milton, from an economic development standpoint. Although Ostrander could not comment on the specifics, he expects a deal will be completed soon on a project that could bring in 40-60 new jobs to the town. Ostrander described a “very positive outlook going forward” for the town, and has had several meetings thus far with the economic development committee, and the Saratoga Prosperity Partnership Group.
He also cited filling several vacant store fronts in town as a recent success.
Other issues Ostrander hopes to complete over the next year include the receipt of a highway grant, construction of an emergency exit for Rowland’s Hollow West, and to follow through with a meeting intended to resolve the water issues for Red Oaks and White Oaks neighborhoods.
Addressing the debate around a law amendment removing residency requirements for three employees, Ostrander accused those opposed of playing politics.
“I think it’s a political bomb on their side,” Ostrander said. “They’re going after one person-Jason Miller-for the deputy highway superintendent, which is Dave Forbes’ [town Highway Superintendent] appointment anyway. Forbes could hire his wife and there’s nothing we [the town board] can do about it.”
According to Ostrander, 8 out of 15 towns in the county have made similar laws, and that Milton’s first priority remains to hire town residents when qualified applicants are identified.
Overall, Ostrander says he has tried to maintain an open-door policy with constituents and has had several one-on-one meetings with people including former board member Jim Staulters, who has been a vocal critic of Ostrander thus far. However, Ostrander insists that addressing questions is something that should be done in his office, not at the public meetings.
“Public comment is public comments,” Ostrander said. “I’m not going to engage with people during the middle of their circus act.”
Fellow Councilman Frank Blaisdell praised Ostrander for the “positive effect” he’s had on Milton in his early tenure and for his strong work ethic.
“His door is always open to the town employees and the residents of the Town of Milton,” Blaisdell said. “Supervisor Ostrander is bringing a bright outlook to the Town of Milton.”
Requests for comment by council members Benny Zlotnick, Barbara Kerr and John Frolish were not responded to.
Frequent adversary of the Town of Milton government, resident John Olenik, also did not respond to a request for comment.