Tivoli Mayor Bryan Cranna is proposing legislation that would double the current term lengths for village officials, from two to four years.
At the June 20 Tivoli Trustees meeting, Cranna explained that his primary interest in the legislation was the potential financial savings of $500-$600 every other year.
“The village of Tivoli spends a few hundred dollars annually to administer the elections, not to mention the time and effort that is put in by the clerk’s office,” Cranna said. “When I am denying requests from the DPW and the Fire Department and rescue squad and other village departments, if I can save the village a few hundred dollars a year, that’s something that I would propose.”
The mayor stressed that there were no political motives in his proposal and that the change would not affect any current term. If such changes were to take effect in 2013, the first seats entitled to the new longer term after re-election would be the positions currently held by Trustees Robin Bruno and Susan Ezrati as well as Cranna.
Cranna also noted that the increased stability of longer terms might be beneficial for work on large-scale projects. “A lot of projects take time; some take years,” he said. “When you have a term of two years, you get someone into that project and then they are voted out or their term ends, you have somebody new come in and they have to learn from scratch.”
Trustee Joel Griffith and Ezrati voiced strong concerns over the proposal. Ezrati argued that increasing term length would reduce the number of people interested or willing to participate in village government. “If you are to ask a well-qualified person — someone with an interest in the village and the skill sets to serve — you are more likely to get a ‘yes’ if you say two years than if you say for four years. They’re thinking, ‘Gosh, my kids will be in college by then.’”
Ezrati also took issue with the mayor’s reasoning that a longer term would decrease the board’s turnover rate. “It’s true, two years is not very long,” she said. “But in my observation — and I have been serving the village for seven years — once you get on the board, it is very hard to get off. In general, people end up serving terms on this board between six and eight years.”
Griffith also found Cranna’s point to be less than convincing. “You run again,” he said. “An official who feels their work is unfinished has the recourse to run again.”
He also noted that there is no term limit for either a trustee or mayoral position in the village, meaning that the only real limit on the length in office is voter preference.
“A two-year term is good enough for the United States House of Representatives,” he added.
A public hearing on the resolution has been set for the July 18 Tivoli town board meeting. If passed, the change would affect the office of mayor and the village trustees but would not affect other elections, such as village court.
Any such resolution would be subject to permissive referendum. In the event that the resolution passes the board, interested parties would have 30 days to collect signatures from 20 percent of the village electorate. Successfully submitting the signatures would force an automatic public referendum, giving Tivoli residents a chance to vote on the matter directly.
The change would also bring Tivoli’s structure more closely in line with those of the Town and Village of Red Hook. The Red Hook town supervisor and town councilmembers serve four-year terms, as do the Village of Red Hook mayor and the Village of Red Hook trustees.