Hamburg Town Board warrants investigation

As the former Town of Hamburg Democratic chairman for more than 25 years, I would like to comment on the Jan. 12 editorial, “Turmoil in Hamburg,” regarding town government.

It is true that the turmoil has and continues to cost the taxpayers of Hamburg in the form of increased taxes. The tax increase for 2013 is one of the highest of all of the larger towns in Erie County. The town had a budget gap of about $750,000 in 2011 and was forced to cover the shortfall with money from the fund balance. These are difficult times for towns to reduce taxes, and a nonpartisan approach to this challenge has clearly brought better results in other towns. Hamburg is the only town to receive millions from the Hamburg Casino Video Lottery funds. Since 2007, the town has received more than $5 million from the casino, and yet our taxes still go up.

In the last three budget years, the Democratic councilmen have proposed spending cuts in the range of $800,000 to $1.1 million. The Republican board members not only refused to accept one penny of the cuts, they ridiculed their fellow councilmen.

The recent actions of Elizabeth Reszka are just another effort to divert attention away from the serious financial circumstances the town is facing. The obvious strategy of the Republican board members is to bully anyone who speaks out or asks questions. Residents are intimidated at public meetings, and requests by taxpayer groups for public information are denied. The number of Town Board meetings has been reduced by more than 40 percent.

I do take exception to the comment in the editorial that Hamburg has been troubled for decades. For decades before this bully board, Republican town officials like Jack Quinn, Dan Henry, George Danyluk and Sally Stephenson worked with Democrats like Pat Hoak, Jim Connolly, Mark Cavacoli, Joan Kesner, Kathy Hochul and Tom Quatroche with an excellent history of good and open government.

I believe an outside investigation should be conducted by either the Attorney General’s Office or the State Comptroller.

Vincent J. Sorrentino