SYRACUSE — The only political fight taking place in Syracuse is Republican incumbent Paula Kehr-Wicker facing off against Democratic challenger Tim Yeager for the Syracuse Clerk-Treasurer’s position.
Syracuse Town Councilmen Tom Hoover, reprensenting District 3; Larry Martindal, representing District 4 and Bill Musser representing District 5 are all running unopposed.
The Mail-Journal recently asked both Kehr-Wicker and Yeager questions regarding the clerk-treasurer’s position. Here are their responses.
Do you think the relationship between the council and clerk-treasurer’s office needs to be improved? If so, in what way?
Kehr-Wicker —Striving for trusting and respectful relationships are the key elements in any organization and the Town of Syracuse is no exception. While my job is to serve the ratepayers of the town who elected me, I also have a fiduciary responsibility to the members of the council. In short, I do not work for the town council but rather I am a co-equal part of our municipal government. As one example, in the case of a tie vote during a council meeting I become the tie breaking vote.
As in any organization respect is a two way street; you have to earn to receive it. Having said that we’re all adults and we can handle any problem that arises. I wear many hats as Clerk-Treasurer and I enjoy performing each task as one person in a town of many employees and elected officials.
Yeager — I’ve attended some of the recent meetings of the Town Council, and it does seem as though the atmosphere is a bit frigid at times. When in the course of human events (shout out to Thomas Jefferson), disagreements are likely to occur now and then. However, since most of the duties of clerk-treasurer are prescribed by state statute and municipal ordinances, ideally there should be little conflict. Even though elected by citizens, the clerk-treasurer is expected to serve the town council (also elected by citizens) as secretary and treasurer.
I like current Warsaw Clerk-Treasurer Lynne Christiansen’s take on the job. Having no legislative authority, she describes the position “as a servant leader and places extreme importance on cooperation between citizens, employees, and elected officials.” One certainly hopes the responsibility would be seen in that light.
Do you feel the budget for the Town of Syracuse is adequate? If your answer is no, why? What would you like to see changed?
Kehr-Wicker — If by “adequate” you mean sufficient to pay our bills, then yes! But if your definition of “adequate” includes improvement or advancement, then I would have to say it is not. There is no ‘one’ way to change it. The revenue we receive comes from many different sources. Property taxes are, of course, much of our revenue. It’s difficult to try to increase that revenue without increasing the tax rate. We can’t increase the value of someone’s property without providing improved services and quality of place, and we can’t improve the services and quality of place unless the property values increase. It’s a vicious circle and proves our residents and our elected officials need to work together. I believe it would be helpful if more taxpayers could join the public meetings and work with the council by becoming more involved in the budgeting process.
Yeager — I suspect the budget is adequate at present. The municipality is not over-funded, but we have a council which carefully watches every penny. Since the clerk-treasurer administers and manages the budget based on what the council has established and mandated, I doubt the clerk-treasurer can do much to increase the budget. He or she could report short-falls or impending short-falls in budget categories and make suggestions for changes in the next tax year, but the town council sets the budget and confirms or denies any funding changes the clerk-treasurer may propose. I would want to experience a full budget cycle before I would feel comfortable proposing any recommendations for change.