Interview with Dave Dybas, candidate for fourth ward alderman

“Financial recovery” is the main theme for Dave Dybas’ campaign for the City of Amsterdam Fourth Ward Alderman position. During a recent interview at the Walter Elwood Museum, he said that if elected, he will take the time to thoroughly research the issues facing the city and work together with other leaders to determine the solutions that are the most beneficial to all city residents.

Dybas previously served on the Amsterdam Common Council from 2012-2013. He also served as a Montgomery County supervisor from 2000-2009. His previous work experience includes approximately six years as a chief auditor at the United Cerebral Palsy Association for Montgomery County (which he noted was absorbed by the Center for Disability Services), as a self-employed financial consultant who did work for the Amsterdam Industrial Development Agency, as well as 25 years with General Electric, with his last position there being a manager of financial analysts. He said he also used to be a professional accordion player for 25 years, and currently volunteers his time playing at rehabilitation or senior living facilities.

“I grew up with numbers,” said Dybas. “I did teach at Fulton Montgomery Community College as adjunct faculty for a number of years, plural. Put in some time down at Hudson Valley. Became versed in municipal accounting, because I had to teach it. Saw some of my students who went on to bigger and better things which always made me feel good.”

When asked what drives him to serve the City of Amsterdam, he replied, “The hope that someday it’ll change. And not repeat the mistakes we’ve made.”

He said he believes “all the residents of the city are the most important consideration for any candidate trying to get elected. I don’t care who it is.”

“Working together in the 21st century is a necessity. Doing things in the same way and expecting different outcomes does not work,” he added.

Dybas recalled working with Vito Dandreano during his consulting work at AIDA during the 1990’s.

“We would go after one another at IDA meetings,” he said. “Hammer and tong, hammer and tong. Why? You don’t know what the problem is until you get out all the facts. You listen to everybody. You just don’t think it’s my way or the highway.”

“It was no holds barred at the meetings,” he continued. “The press was there. No holds barred. Which I enjoyed, because it got out. After the meeting, we went down and had pizza and beer together, and we were friends.”

When asked about his view on the proposed apartment complex and restaurant/banquet hall project on the former Chalmers property, Dybas said he has many questions which haven’t been answered yet at the public meetings he has attended.

“There’s a checklist of things that need to be checked into before, in at least my opinion, you can commit to anything. Now I admit, yeah it sounds like a good deal. What do we have to do to make it work to achieve that?”

“There are a multitude of questions. Leave it at that. Unanswered at the present time,” he said.

Dybas said he wants to make sure the project benefits everyone in the city, “not just a certain – as I call them – God’s chosen persons.”

On the subject of what to do with the city’s municipal golf course, which has posted deficits in the last several years, Dybas recalled a situation he faced on the county board of supervisors when state funding was cut for the Montgomery County Infirmary. Rather than shutting the facility down, Dybas said he worked with the other supervisors to sell the facility to a private operator.  According to Dybas, the new operators made “outstanding” improvements to the facility without utilizing a payment in lieu of taxes agreement (PILOT).  Dybas emphasized that he believes “PILOTS do not work.”

In order to solve the problem of the infirmary, Dybas said that he along with the other supervisors “all sat down, we all understood what the problem was, we listened, we listened, we listened, we took action.”

“You don’t instantly come up with these ideas,” he added.

In regards to the golf course, Dybas acknowledged that selling the golf course, leasing it, or continuing to run it directly, were all options available to the city. However, he stressed that he is not set on any one option until he can “get all the facts.”

When asked about the problem of deficits in the general fund and others, Dybas said he considers the city’s total deficit to be negative 14,897,186. He cited the most recent audit report which lists the number as the city’s unrestricted net position for the 2016-2017 fiscal year. The figure reflects total assets and liabilities of the city including short-term loans (bond anticipation notes) and long-term bonds.

“Unrestricted net position. Negative, which means deficit,” said Dybas.

When asked how to make up the general fund balance, Dybas said, “That’s the simplest question you asked me. You take in more money than you spend.”

In order to achieve that goal, one idea Dybas said he would look into is the possibility of having the county collect taxes for the city. He said the idea could help the city if it took the burden of collecting for the school district off the city and if it allowed the city to receive its total yearly tax revenue at the beginning of the year. He suggested that with proper planning, the city could use that revenue to pay off debts earlier.

“You have to have somebody who has the acumen and the smarts to start looking at that and plot it out,” said Dybas. But he added, “If it’s cheaper to do that why shouldn’t we do that if we get the money, okay?

Another issue Dybas said he was concerned about is the making sure the council holds the controller’s office accountable for settling the amount of taxes owed to the county with the county treasurer.

“When’s the last time that was done in the City of Amsterdam?” asked Dybas.

He said that while he was on the council, it was never done, however he pointed out the city’s financial records were in disorder at that time. Now that the city is current with its financial reporting, Dybas said that the council should make sure that the settlement takes place.

“You go to a doctor, he tells you you’ve got terminal cancer. What do you do? That’s my question,” said Dybas in regards to the city’s financial condition. “You try to fix it. Maybe it’s not terminal. Maybe it’s misdiagnosed. There’s always hope. It’s time for us to stop kidding ourselves. Let’s fix it and move on.”

Dybas will appear on the Democratic Party line on November’s ballot. He faces Stephen Gomula on the Republican party line, and incumbent Guy Cappuccio who is running as a write-in candidate.

Tim Becker

Tim Becker is the owner of Anthem Websites Inc. which publishes The Compass. He serves as both editor and a writer.