Chiara speaks out against vehicle fees at public hearing

A former Amsterdam and Montgomery County official was the only speaker at Tuesday’s public hearing on County Executive Matthew Ossenfort’s proposed $109.1 million budget for 2015.

Tuesday’s session was the second of two scheduled public hearings. No one spoke at the first one, held last week.

Michael Chiara, who was Amsterdam’s city assessor and also served a term on the county Board of Supervisors, spoke out against the vehicle registration fees contained in Ossenfort’s budget and raised other objections as well.

Chiara called the proposed vehicle fees a tax, comparing it with the imposition of a sewer fee in the 1970s.

“Call it what it is,” he said. “I think any legislator who votes in favor of it should be voted out of office.”

He said the proposed vehicle fees would never go away and would rise every year.

“Once you start to do that [impose a fee], it’s very hard to take it back,” he said. “Once you put a fee in, it will continue to go up and up.”

He said county residents are at their limit.

“I’ve worked with taxpayers for years,” he said. “Taxpayers can’t take any more.”

Chiara objected to several other provisions in the proposed budget as well..

“A director of labor relations? What’s that about?” he asked. “A communications specialist? Professional services, that’s probably for attorneys. How many attorneys do we need?”

The Legislature’s Budget and Finance Committee has submitted a list of proposed changes to Ossenfort’s budget, which he can accept or veto. If he and legislators can reach a consensus, he hopes for final adoption of the budget by Oct. 15.

“At this point I do not see the need to veto [any proposed changes], ” he said after Tuesday’s hearing. “I would like to get through the budget process without resorting to the veto.”

John Becker

John Becker is both a Reporter and Consulting Editor for The Compass. He and his wife Pat operate Abbey Farms in Amsterdam NY.