Last Sunday, the candidates for Clarkstown Supervisor met at JCC Rockland to field questions from their constituents and pitch their vision for the future of the town as election day draws near. Current Supervisor George Hoehmann used the opportunity to tout improvements to Clarkstown’s fiscal health that have occurred under his tenure including cuts to local property taxes, and a town budget for 2024 that contains no tax increases. His opponent,Town Clerk Justin Sweet, discussed the need to reduce government spending while simultaneously expanding the work of code enforcement and stated that his background as real estate attorney makes him well suited to tackle the “finical and development challenges” facing Clarkstown.
Taxes were the first issue addressed. When asked how he plans to avoid an increase in the tax burden facing Clarkstown residents Hoehmann confidently recited the steps Clarkstown has taken to reduce taxes during his two terms in office. Hoehmann stated that Clarkstown has experienced a tax increase of 1.5% over the last eight years, and reiterated that his government’s budget for 2024 contained no tax increases: Supervisor Hoehmann compared himself favorably to his predecessor Alexander Gromack, who’s administration saw an average 4.6% rise in property taxes every year.
Sweet was quick to counter that a reduction in the average amount of taxes collected every year has not prevented local property tax rates from rising overall, stating that property taxes have still risen by 21 million dollars under Supervisor Hoehmann’s administration. Sweet shared his ambition to prevent any tax increase and promised that his “proven efficiency strategies” would be the key to keeping costs down. Citing the high cost of maintaining town employees, Sweet stated his intent to reduce staffing and cited his previous efforts as town clerk as proof of the strategies effectiveness.
“During my management we were able to take into two departments from nine full time employees and turn into one department with five full time employees,” said Sweet. Supervisor Hoehmann used his rebuttal to suggest that Sweet’s goal to reduce overall spending clearly conflicted with the town clerk’s promise to add four new code enforcement officers to the town payroll if elected.
When questioned about their goals for Clarkstown’s public transit, both candidates voiced their support for the town’s mini trans service. Hoehmann took credit for successfully applying for a federal grant to add four new mini buses to the service at zero cost to the taxpayer. Sweet stated that the mini-tran system is under utilized and proposed both expanding the service and launching a concerted effort to raise public awareness of its utility.
When asked their opinion on a controversial proposal to build a six story apartment complex in the downtown New City shopping center, the candidates were again in agreement. While both men voiced disapproval of the proposal, Sweet took the opportunity to point out that Hoehmann’s administration had made changes to the zoning of the downtown area earlier this year that allowed the project to be considered in the first place. “I’m nothing short of alarmed,” stated Sweet, who stressed the need for quality single family housing, and concern about the negative traffic effects that could follow the proposal’s adoption.
While defending the town’s choice to alter the zoning of the downtown area, Hoehmann echoed his opponents disapproval of the project and stressed that apartment complex was merely a proposal, one which the Supervisor believes is unlikely to acquire the easements necessary for construction. Sighting a slow rate of growth in Clarkstown’s housing stock and long waiting lists for it’s senior centers, Supervisor Hoehmann emphasized the need for “smart growth” within the town and stressed that Clarkstown has expanded at normal rate compared to other towns in the state of New York. The Clarkstown Planning board has approved a mere 228 new housing units since 2020.
The debate concluded with each candidate asked to list a positive attribute of their opponent. While clearly refusing to support any of their opponents polices, both colleagues endorsed each others personal character.