TUPPER LAKE - Three town board members here attended the annual Newly Elected Officials Training School in Albany from Jan. 15 to 17.
New town Supervisor Patti Littlefield and councilmen Mike Dechene and John Quinn all said the three-day seminar provided useful insight into the workings of a town government. Quinn joined the board in July after Councilman David Tomberlin resigned midway through his first term and was elected in November to continue that role.
In November, the town board unanimously agreed to nix a $4,000 stipend for the budget officer position. The board also denied a controversial $2,000 raise for the town supervisor that former town Supervisor Roger Amell had included in the tentative budget, leaving that salary at $16,000.
Those savings were placed in a contingency fund which was used to pay for the training.
Littlefield said more than 200 people attended the seminar, which included training sessions on topics like government accounting, planning, personnel issues, budget processing and fiscal monitoring. The event was sponsored by the state Association of Towns and the state comptroller's office.
"I left knowing there were some things we have to do," Littlefield said. "The big one for me is we need to have more written policies in place. They don't give you a template for these policies, but with the Association of Towns we're able to share other town policies with one another."
Things like creating a detailed check-finding policy, creating an employee manual and adjusting things that were recommended in past state Comptroller audits are at the forefront of issues that need attention.
"Policy writing is time-consuming, but it's about time we got the town attorney to look at it," Littlefield said.
Dechene said each participant went home with a large packet of information. It's taken him time to go through all of it and absorb it.
"They went over so much, and now there's a lot of reading to be done," Dechene said. "There's a lot about fiscal stress monitoring, competitive bidding and all kinds of other financial stuff. It was an excellent training."
The board won't meet again until 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 13, but Dechene said the seminar has given them a lot to talk about.
"As a member serving on a town board, I wanted to learn about everything I could," Dechene said. "As a board member you're nothing. You have to act as a board. So right now I think the focus is on trying to get the board up to where it needs to be."
Quinn echoed the need to review the town's policies and have them properly documented.
"I think we need to formalize our policies," Quinn said. "I believe the town has all the required policies but they all need to be put into one package together. It's not like we have to reinvent the wheel. We made some contacts with other communities and towns within our same socioeconomic class and we met some nice people who were willing to share what they're doing so we can improve the way we govern here."