What Does A Town Supervisor Actually Do?
In Columbia County, a Town Supervisor actually has two jobs. One is at the town level, and one is at the county level.
The town government is run by the town board as the executive, administrative and legislative body of the town. A town board, as a group, is the executive head of the town. The Supervisors’ specific statutory duties are as Treasurer of the town, and to preside over town board meetings. Therefore, the Supervisor is responsible for signing the checks and payroll, creating the financial reports, and setting the agenda for and running the meetings.
The county government is run by a Board of Supervisors (BOS), who have executive and legislative power for the county. County department heads need to have the majority approval of the BOS to enact their plans. County Department heads report to BOS committees made up of representatives from the BOS. Many decisions have to be approved by more than one committee before reaching the full board for a vote. Supervisors are usually on at least three committees.
Local Government Structure
With New York State’s Home Rule, it can be very confusing to understand who does what in government! To help understand how it all fits together, where your tax dollars are used and how you can have an impact, I have compiled the following information to help differentiate the various municipal entities and their role for you:
Town of Claverack
In total there are about 6000 residents of the Town of Claverack, which includes the Village of Philmont. Elected within the Town of Claverack are the Supervisor and 4 councilmen, which make up the town board – with legislative and executive power. Laws affecting the Town usually apply to all the area outside of Philmont (especially things like zoning). But elected officials actually are voted on by the entire town of Claverack (including Philmont) and therefore officially represent the entire town. These town elected positions include a Highway Superintendent, Town Clerk, Judges and Assessors (as well as the board).
The relationship between the town and village varies for different municipalities (for instance, some villages have an agreement with the town highway department to maintain the village roads – or a village can dissolve their court, and hand the responsibility to the town), but currently, within Claverack, the relationships are mostly separate. Assessments and Dog Licensing is always handled by the town. The town has an appointed zoning and planning board (only handling cases outside of Philmont), as well as their own building inspector, highway department staff and court. Things like the Historian, Animal Control Officer (required positions) and the summer park program are examples of things that cover the entire town.
The town has the following committees, made up of residents of anyone within the entire township: Economic Development Advisory Committee, Agriculture Advisory Committee, Historic Advisory Committee. There are separate budgets for things that affect the entire town vs the town outside of Philmont, and therefore residents within and outside of Philmont are taxed differently. What goes into which budget is mostly dictated by the state comptroller’s office. The taxes for Philmont residents are about $.90/M of your assessed value and about $1/M for the remainder of Claverack. The meetings for the Town of Claverack are held on the 2nd Thursday of the month, at 7PM at 836 Highway 217, Mellenville, NY (near the Philmont line). Elections are held in November, with other state and national elections. www.townofclaverack.com
The Village of Philmont
The Village of Philmont is located within the Town of Claverack. The Village of Philmont is its own incorporated Village, which means it has its own elected Mayor and 4 Trustees which make up the Village Board. The Mayor has executive power, and the full board has legislative power. The Village of Philmont has about 1400 residents. The village has its own laws, unique to Philmont. They therefore have their own Zoning and Planning Boards, which are appointments made by the Village Board. They also have their own Building Inspector, elected Judge and Court, Police department, Public Works department (road maintenance, etc), water/sewer, garbage pickup, community center, Treasurer/Clerk (appointed by the Mayor). There is a volunteer committee for Community Day.
Meetings are held the second Monday of the month at 7:00 at 124 Main Street, Philmont. Philmont has its own budget, and this is divided by the properties within Philmont (taxes are about $7/M assessed value). Elections are usually held in March, and do not coincide with other elections. www.philmont.org.
The town of Claverack is located within the boundaries of Columbia County. There are 60,000 residents of Columbia County, and Claverack is the 2nd largest town within the County (Kinderhook is the largest). The legislative power for the county is created by a Board of Supervisors (BOS), which is the automatic position of the elected Town Supervisors (so you are elected by your town, but then you also then sit on the County Board).
There are 23 Supervisors (5 are represented by Hudson, who has a whole different charter/structure, because they are a city). The Supervisors have legislative and executive power, and legislative voting they have a “weighted” vote, which means the more people a Supervisor represents, the more their vote is worth (for instance, the vote for the Supervisor of Claverack is worth about 350 points and a voter from one Supervisor from Hudson might be worth 50 points). There is also some calculation that ensures that a few Supervisors do not control the board. (Philmont is represented on the County level only by the Town Supervisor.)
The Board of Supervisors (BOS) manages many departments of services for the County, including: Highway, Sheriffs, Social Services, Health, Mental Health, Pine Haven, Public Defenders, District Attorney, County Clerk’s office, Board of Elections, Veteran’s Affairs, Office of the Aging (owns the Tripp Center in Philmont), Tourism, Economic Development, Planning, County Waste, Engineering, Columbia Greene Community College, and a few more I am sure I am forgetting. All these areas have full-time managers (a few of which are elected, like the Clerk, DA and Sheriff), and all report to a committee of the BOS. A committee recommendation is how something moves for approval to the full BOS to be voted on by everyone. Committees are structured with one Supervisor, one vote (vs the weighted vote). Committees meet monthly, as does the full board. All are open to the public.
There is a county budget, which is divided by all county properties. Adjustments are made if state has determined that a town is not at 100% full assessed value, to make sure the townships are equal. The County tax for Claverack residents is around $5.50/M of assessed value. Full BOS meets on the 2nd Wed of the month at 7:30. These meetings are usually video taped. www.columbiacountyny.com
Have their own lines, their own elected school board, their own budgets. Some residents within Claverack are in the Taconic Hills district, and some are in the Hudson School district. The School District tends to be the highest property tax within the county. Currently Claverack residents pay $15.46/M for the Hudson City School District, and $11.17/M of assessed value if you are in the Taconic Hills School District. School board elections are held at a unique time, and residents must vote for budget approval.
The entire county is serviced by volunteer fire departments. There are a few different ways these are structured, and therefore differing boards that have fiscal responsibility. Some are a board of commissioners, some are town or village boards, but in some way they are elected. Either way, a fire district has its own budget and that is paid for by the residents of that district.
Claverack contains six different fire districts (in alphabetical order): Claverack (A.B. Shaw), Churchtown, Craryville, Mellenville, Philmont, West Ghent. For residents of Philmont, the cost of running the fire department is included in their village taxes. If you live outside Philmont, but are serviced by Philmont (i.e. towards Harlemville), you are taxed separately for that fire district on your tax bill (in addition to any other taxes).
New York State
Provides funding to Columbia County, and has own legislative and executive power. Executive power is held by Governor. Legislative Power is held by State Assembly and Senate. The Assembly has about 112 members, Senate has about 60 members.
Claverack is currently represented by Didi Barrett for the Assembly and Kathy Marchione for the Senate. Kathy Marchione (the Senate Seat) represents all of Columbia County (plus Counties north); Columbia County is represented by 3 different Assembly members, which have different districts, all which go beyond Columbia County borders. So depending on where you live in Columbia County, you may be represented by a different Assembly member.
Hope that helps!