A proposal by a freshman Cheektowaga Town Board member calling for downsizing Erie County’s largest town board from seven to five members was rejected Monday night for the second time in less than a week.
The latest rejection came during a Town Board meeting in Town Hall.
Council Member Angela M. Wozniak, during a board discussion portion of the meeting, reintroduced her initiative that would see the board shed two of its members at the start of 2016. The motion and plea by Wozniak were met by applause by many of the several dozen who crowded into the Council Chambers for anticipated discussion on the issue of downsizing.
“The irresponsible spending needs to end,” said Wozniak, who estimates the town could save as much as $88,000 annually. “I believe downsizing our Town Board to five members will be a step in the right direction.”
Four of the 932 towns statewide have seven-member boards.
Cheektowaga is one of them and is the only one in Erie County.
Wozniak’s colleagues defended the size of the board, arguing that the size of the town and the business that it generates necessitates a seven-member board.
“At least if you have seven members on the board, you have seven people with very diverse backgrounds,” explained Council Member Charlie Markel.
Added Gerald P. Kaminski, who was elected with Wozniak to the board in 2011: “If you would like to talk about efficiency, I would much rather talk about merging towns and villages – talk about Sloan and Depew. I think there’s a lot of ways to save money.”
Supervisor Mary F. Holtz said she “can’t do it all” and needs the help of every board member.
“We’ve downsized our department heads, we’ve downsized our employees … we are very, very lean,” Holtz said. “We’re downsizing in the right spots.”
Holtz said Wozniak’s effort to get the measure before voters would be futile. “We’re not doing it,” said Holtz.
Holtz’s stance, according to downsizing advocate Kevin P. Gaughan, is “disappointing.”
“By blocking a public vote, Cheektowaga Town Board members sadly revealed the disdain they hold for town voters,” Gaughan said after the meeting, “but their actions will only make Cheektowaga residents more determined to streamline their government.”
Gaughan, who couldn’t attend Monday’s meeting, believes voters in Cheektowaga would overwhelmingly support downsizing from seven to five members, if given the chance. Gaughan said his team amassed some 27,000 signatures on a petition from Cheektowaga residents a few years ago in support of downsizing.
Because of state law provisions, residents can only force a referendum on the issue on five-member town boards. The measure would need to be first approved by the Town Board in Cheektowaga to reach voters for their consideration. Gaughan vowed to fight on to get them that chance.
About a dozen residents weighed in on the issue at Monday’s meeting, with most falling on the side of downsizing, or at least letting voters have their say on the issue.
See the blog of Monday’s meeting at Buffalo News Live at buffalonews.com. email: firstname.lastname@example.org