When Bob LaColla took over as Fishkill supervisor in 2012, the town was in financial turmoil. Fishkill faced a multi-million budget deficit, experts had deemed the town’s financial outlook as “negative,” and state auditors had cited “poor budgeting practices.”
But LaColla has worked in earnest to turn things around, and residents should reward him with another four years in office.
LaColla, a Republican, is facing a challenge from Democrat Ozzy Albra, who, as an engaged citizen, has kept a watchful eye on Fishkill government practices through several administrations.
Before LaColla was elected, town officials raided funds that were supposed to be dedicated for specific purposes — such as for water and sewer — to cover other revenue shortfalls. They did this to avoid tax increases, but Fishkill didn’t pay back those accounts in a timely fashion, according to state auditors.
LaColla laudably developed a multiyear financial plan to address these issues and, once again, the town is on firm financial footing.
LaColla talked about this and many other issues during a meeting with the Poughkeepsie Journal Editorial Board recently. Albra declined to attend the meeting, despite several attempts by the Journal to schedule a date and time when both candidates could meet. Albra did tell a Journal reporter that he wants to make the community more affordable to live and that he won’t raise taxes.
As a result of the plan that LaColla was instrumental in putting in place, Moody’s Investors Service has upgraded the town’s credit rating this year, citing the “strong improvement to its financial position over the last year, including the elimination of a negative operating fund balance and improvement in liquidity.”
With the financial crisis under control, LaColla looks forward to focusing more on economic development and quality-of-life issues on behalf of residents. He thinks the town can grow in certain places, including just south of Dutchess Stadium, and other areas along its main corridors, routes 9, 9D, 52 and 82.
He also is rightly upbeat about significant strides being made to the area’s trail system, something both residents and those visiting the area surely will enjoy. This includes a new 9-mile public trail linking the Village of Cold Spring in Putnam County and the City of Beacon along Route 9D via Breakneck Ridge. The proposed multi-use trail will begin at the Metro-North Cold Spring station and run to the Metro- North Beacon station. Under LaColla’s leadership, The Town of Fishkill —in collaboration with the City of Beacon, Village of Cold Spring and Town of Philipstown — was awarded a grant by the New York State Hudson River Valley Greenway program to create the draft proposal in 2013.
More than a dozen agencies, including non-profit environmental groups, state agencies and municipalities, are involved in the project, with Scenic Hudson playing a particularly pivotal role.
LaColla has a strong reputation as someone willing to collaborate and look for the best ways forward. He was handed a pile of problems when he came into office in 2012, but he has dealt with them methodically and responsibly and deserves another term in office.
On the Web
To see LaColla’s Editorial Board meeting with the Poughkeepsie Journal, go online to www.poughkeepsiejournal.com