N.Y. Town Picks Low Taxes Over Cops

March 3, 1998
Filed at 9:15 p.m. EST
By The Associated Press

PUTNAM VALLEY, N.Y. (AP)-- A town that lost a police department last year voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to do without one -- and pocket the tax savings.
Residents of Putnam Valley voted 2,473 to 1 ,035 against bringing back a force that was abolished by the Town Board in September.
The issue had long divided the townspeople, and Supervisor Charles Anderson said he was "ecstatic" with the turnout.
It shows the people wanted to decide this for themselves," he said.
The referendum was ordered by a federal judge to settle a lawsuit brought by unemployed police officers after the Town Board voted last year to abolish the Police Department in this town of 9,800, about 50 miles north of New York City.
Though meetings on the issue were contentious, with shouting, pushing and even tire-slashing, the board refused to put it to a townwide vote. Residents voted out the incumbents in November, despite the 31 percent cut in town taxes that came with the end of the Police Department.
The new board proposed a scaled-down force, depending heavily on part-timers, that would add $144 a year to the average homeowner's taxes -- less than half the $300 it cost for the old Police Department.
But at meetings last month, tempers again boiled over. Anderson himself got shoved as he tried to make peace and one man claimed he'd been spat upon.
County Sheriff Robert Thoubboron, who has taken over patrols of Putnam Valley, was not allowed to speak at the meetings because he's not a town resident. But he wrote to each resident, lobbying against the referendum.
"No professional police force that I know of uses part-timers to that extent... The liability aspect is scary."
Resident Patty Villanova, who favored the abolition of the Police Department last year, said she was happy with the tax cut, satisfied with the sheriffs service and glad to see the demise of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association.
"These municipal unions have a stranglehold on the taxpayers," she said. "Why do we have to take it back? It's a liability."