Monroe Town Board approves home-rule request bill in 4-1 vote to accelerate Palm Tree’s creation

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By Nancy Kriz

— The Monroe Town Board approved a resolution supporting the home-rule request bill from the state Legislature to accelerate the creation of the Town of Palm Tree by a year in a 4-1 vote on May 17.

The bill, sponsored by Assemblyman James Skoufis (D-Woodbury) and state Sen. William Larkin Jr. (R-Cornwall-in-Hudson) would allow the Town of Palm Tree to come into existence in 2019 instead of 2020, as per current state law.

The town’s formation - which will consist of the Village of Kiryas Joel and additional acreage - was overwhelmingly approved by Monroe voters in a referendum held last November.

ReservationsVoting no was Councilwoman Mary Bingham, who said she had concerns about pushing up the new town’s creation by a year.

“There’s been only minimal discussions with Kiryas Joel regarding division of financial assets and liability,” she said. “I also have reservations with the school district. Assemblyman Skoufis and Senator Larkin have proposed bills to give our Monroe-Woodbury School District some more money. As far as I know, those bills have not passed. So, I do have concerns with the school district not being financially compensated ... I do understand some of the negotiations cannot take place until Pine Tree is officially formed. That being said, I still have reservations and I do have concerns.”

Response: Town has no say in school districtCouncilman Rick Colon addressed Bingham’s comments.

“The discussion gone on for some time,” he said. “As far as the school (district) is concerned ... this town board really cannot speak on behalf of the school board because those are separate elected officials and they have their own budget and they had their own negotiations. I understand there may be hesitancy, but we have absolutely no input on that aspect. As far as negotiations on other issues … all of those factors change once they become the Town of Palm Tree. So anything that is pre-negotiated before the formation of that town is automatically pushed to the side.”

Supervisor Tony Cardone also noted the distinction between the town and school district.

“We don’t have a say in that, it had nothing to do with us,” he said, adding there were two prior and well-attended meetings to discuss the financial aspects of the new town’s creation. “I don’t think there’s much leverage for us in that respect. The school handles its own business. I have had some brief discussion with some school board members and they’re in agreement, somewhat, that whatever we do has no bearing on what will happen with them going forward. I, personally, am in favor of accelerating this, and getting it off the table and moving forward.”

Councilman Mike McGinn said that the additional, proposed school district aid is something that has to be handled in Albany, calling it a “political promise.”

“Whether it happens in this session or the next session, that’s really up to those up in Albany that made those promises and not the five of us sitting on this board,” he said. “Every angle of this has been discussed. The referendum was held, the people spoke and they wanted this to go forward. Basically, the matter is whether we do it now or we do it a year from now. Let’s do this now and finalize this separation and move forward.”

Councilman Sal Scancarello kept his comments brief.

“I am for acceleration tonight,” he said. “I think it’s important that we get this done and move forward and get our town back 100 percent.”

Legislature must act before June 20The Legislature needs to pass the bill before ending its session on June 20 in order for Palm Tree to be established in January.

This would also allow the required legal time for prospective Palm Tree board members get signatures and file petitions to run for office in November.

Additionally, it would also remove the Kiryas Joel bloc vote from participation in the 2018 Town Council special election.

The special election is for the seat Cardone vacated when he was elected supervisor, and is now held by Scancarello.

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