Nicole Doliner is challenging Clarkstown Supervisor George Hoehmann, who is seeking a third, two-year term in the Nov. 5 election.
Doliner is running on the Democratic Party line; Hoehmann has Republican, Conservative and Serve America Movement support.
Here are are responses to five questions from the candidates:
1. Why are you best suited to hold the job of town supervisor?
- With 20 years of government financial experience, I will insist on a far more disciplined approach to the management of Clarkstown’s day to day operations and finances to avoid bond rating reduction.
- Will rebuild the fund balance (rainy-day funds) to meet unforeseen emergencies and to minimize the tax hikes such as the proposed 3.9% tax increase for 2020.
- Will implement merit-based standards for all new hires and board appointments, so that Clarkstown will be better equipped to meet the challenges of the next decade.
Current and past accomplishments:
- Legislative fiscal analyst — Rockland County
- Rockland County Deferred Compensation Board
- Vice chair, Clarkstown Zoning Board of Appeals
- Legislative representative for program to assist the hungry; emergency food and shelter program
- Advocate for Clarkstown open space referendum
- President, Rockland Civic Association
- Treasurer, United Way of Rockland County
Served as town supervisor for the past four years. Highlights include:
- Restructured government operations eliminating and merging departments resulting in a 4% reduction in staff without reducing services.
- Kept taxes low including the first ever tax cut in 2017.
- Reduced the town debt by nearly $6 Million.
- Re-invested over $30 million in infrastructure upgrades including over $10,000,000 in our parks and pools.
- Acquired 58 acres of open space and important parcels the first such acquisitions in over 10 years. These include the acquisition of properties such as Marydell, the Rockland Country Day School, St. Peter’s Syro-Malankara Church and most recently Grace Baptist Church.
- Updated and strengthened our building and zoning codes and implemented the office of code enforcement which is a vigorous comprehensive approach to code enforcement that has become a model for the region.
- Opened government up and made it more accessible and transparent, broadcasting all Town Board meetings. I hold Teletown Hall meetings, coffees with the supervisor and a weekly e-news letter that involves and informs our residents.
- Acquired and converted our streetlights to LEDs, which not only saves money but helps to protect our environment.
- Grown our tax base by adding over $35 million in ratables reducing the overall tax burden on residents. This includes targeted smart growth such as the Transit Oriented Development (TOD) rezoning which will only continue to grow our tax base in a responsible manner.
2. What are the Top 3 issues facing your town?
- Continuing to right the fiscal ship; paying down inherited debt and lowering the cost burden on our taxpayers.
- Continue to enforce our building and zoning codes and fight against the overdevelopment forces that look to disturb our quality of life.
- Continue to preserve and protect our homes and open space.
1. Financial stress
- Two years in a row, Clarkstown is on the New York State Comptroller’s Stress List – the current budget puts the town on track for a third year on the comptroller’s list.
- Clarkstown taxes are proposed at an increase of nearly four percent in 2020.
- Fund balance depleted leaving the town without a contingency fund for emergencies and un-budgeted requirements.
2, Unsustainable development
- Approval of projects that have not been in the interest of the community
- The waiving of State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) requirements, especially in flood prone areas and other environmentally sensitive areas
- No Updated Comprehensive Plan
- Without proper management of expenses tax hikes are inevitable.
- Seniors cannot afford to stay in Clarkstown.
- Young professionals cannot afford to move to Clarkstown.
- Without the fiscal management under control we cannot prevent, the already sky-high taxes, from getting higher.
3. What are your strategies for handling those Top 3 issues?
1. Fiscal health
- Will hold town departments accountable to operate within their budgets.
- Will develop a multi-year plan to anticipate future needs and realistic revenue projections.
- Will institute accountability and transparency – institute “open checkbook” so that all expenditures are on view to the public.
2. Overdevelopment and environmental oversight
- Update the Comprehensive Plan to incorporate sustainable planning that will protect and preserve the suburban character of Clarkstown.
- Institute a moratorium on all new projects and variance requests until the Comprehensive Plan is developed and adopted.
- Appoint residents to land use boards that will only approve development that is in the best interest of residents not developers.
- Zoning Board needs to stop issuing variances that will change the character of our neighborhoods.
- Institute an open application process for residents to apply to land use boards
- Appoint community stakeholders with varied expertise who will make solid planning decisions
- Institute a long-term strategic property acquisition plan that will preserve Clarkstown
- Hire an attorney with land use expertise, to avoid sticky situations before they become major complications.
Getting the fiscal health in order will keep the town from draconian tax increases. The town also needs to ensure there is affordable housing for young people. Large-scale building variances not only change the character of our neighborhoods, they deplete the starter home housing market needed for those young families. The town also has to be mindful of seniors who can no longer afford to stay if taxes continue to rise.
- We’ve cut spending, reduced debt and reduced town workforce by 4% without impacting services. We have grown the tax base by over $35 million with added commercial ratables which reduces the burden on all taxpayers. We will continue to grow the tax base and look forward to new ratables coming on line from the recent TOD zoning to reduce the burden on all taxpayers.
- We’ve invested over $30 million dollars in upgraded infrastructure coupled with a 10 year paving plan, that has resulted in the resurfacing of 97 miles of roads and invested over $10 million into our parks and pools. We have obtained over $14 million in State and federal grants and will continue in this direction to rebuild our town.
- We created a code enforcement unit to strengthen our fight against illegal housing. We’ve processed over 1,800 code violations in 2018; a 200% increase from 2015. We also instituted a “No Knock” Law to prevent door to door solicitation, where over 6,000 signed up.
4. The competing interests of the Orthodox Jewish and non-Orthodox communities related to development have raised tensions across Rockland. What are your strategies for how to deal with these issues?
We have made great strides to build bridges and have an honest, open ear to all that want to be heard. I meet regularly with civic, community and religious leaders to encourage dialogue and address issues.
Over the tenure of my administration I have regularly convened specific meetings involving the town and police administration along with the rabbis who serve the people of our town, the Jewish Federation and JCC to discuss security and other issues of concern. This has been particularly helpful in raising issues, improving communication and enhancing security. These actions have built an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect which has been a forum to address a myriad of issues in a positive manner.
All of our residents have very real concerns about safety, security and quality of life issues. We must ensure that we do not lose sight that we’re all Rocklanders and must work together in a manner the ensures dialogue and mutual respect and not tolerate anything that falls short of that standard.
Nicole Doliner: When I was on the ZBA, I voted “no” on variances that were detrimental to the surrounding areas and would change the character of the neighborhood. I witnessed votes that ignored County Planning Board recommendations. Clarkstown must update its comprehensive plan to ensure smart sustainable development that will protect our property values and ensure that our natural and physical resources are not over-burdened.
Instead of promoting videos, that just raise fear and divide our community, I want to promote a plan that ensures that Clarkstown continues to be a great place to live and raise families.
5. The town is acquiring four properties costing nearly $10 million. Why has this become such a priority and how many more parcels can the town afford to purchase at a time when it is on the comptroller’s financially stressed list?
The town cannot afford to buy every property that comes up for sale, especially now when our bond rating is in jeopardy of being downgraded.
The town needs a strategic plan to ensure sustainable development, and not a panic driven short-sited approach.
The purchase of Rockland Country Day School and Grace Church will come from bonded money, which has to be paid back. These purchases will be added to the principal and interest the town must pay out of its operating budgets. More expenses that the town currently cannot afford.
We have a duty to preserve and protect our Town and acquire significant properties when these make sense for preservation and/or repurposing. The overwhelming majority of our residents support this approach.
The most recent acquisitions have been made despite the town reducing our overall bonded indebtedness by nearly $6 million. Purchasing these properties allows us to add to recreation and open space and in certain instances to leverage portions of them to help grow our tax base with targeted redevelopment for senior and volunteer housing.
It is imperative that we look at properties like these as a potential revenue generators. The town we inherited four short years ago is now back on solid footing eliminating deficit budgeting, restructuring government operations, holding taxes low and reducing debt.
- The League of Women Voters of Rockland County’s annual candidates’ forum takes place at 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 27, at the JCC Rockland, 450 West Nyack Road, West Nyack.
- The program, which is free and open to the public, includes debates among candidates for Rockland County district attorney and Orangetown supervisor; and an opportunity to meet candidates running in contested elections for Rockland County Legislature.
Read more about Clarkstown and the elections:
ROCKLAND ELECTIONS: List of candidates running in November; new this year: early voting
ROCKLAND ELECTIONS: 5 things to know about early voting
CLARKSTOWN: Proposed 2020 budget contains slight tax increase, but under cap
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