Canton supervisor says another four years in office will keep things moving in positive direction
BY PAUL MITCHELL
North Country This Week
CANTON -- The incumbent candidate for Canton Town Supervisor says another four years in office will allow her to keep things moving in a positive direction.
“I am seeking another term because of my genuine love of Canton and to keep the momentum of positive change going,” said Mary Ann Ashley, running on the Democrat and Focused on the People party lines. “It’s been an honor to serve as Canton Town Supervisor. As a whole, we are better off financially and departmentally from four years ago.”Ashley pointed out that in January 2017, the town board requested a comprehensive audit from the NYS Comptroller's Office to examine all town operations.
Findings from that audit, under Ashley’s tenure, initiated critical adjustments that she says have improved the town’s financial status. Ashley noted in January 2018, with the assistance of Gray & Gray CPA and legal teams of Pease & Gustafson and Roemer & Wallens, a critical examination of town operations, finances and employee benefits took place.
“After six months on the job, as CFO [chief financial officer], I went to the town board because we were very close to needing to go to the bank for a loan or lay people off. In my view taxpayers' monies had been manipulated, certain people personally benefited and departments suffered,” said Ashley. “Under my administration, the town board immediately set high standards and implemented audit strategies.”
She said the town board developed and instituted corrective actions as outlined in the final audit report, including paying overdue bills, reconciling several inter-fund loans, recouping $8,000 in unpaid health insurance contributions from a former employee, decreasing and combining bank accounts from 32 to 13, reconciling the Trust and Agency account, paying back taxes and debts, creating written agreements, instituting a payroll certification process, discontinuing unauthorized health insurance coverage for former and current staff, and decreasing the town’s fiscal stress score.
“For three years in a row, I implemented an integrated process of budget development and presented a balanced, more detailed and transparent spending plan while staying within the state mandated tax cap,” stated Ashley. “All meetings have been publicly posted with full agendas and minutes are on public record. We have been open, honest and transparent every step of the way.”
Legislatively, Ashley said an Ethics law has been upgraded in partnership for the Canton Village Board. A Comprehensive Plan with the villages of Canton and Rensselaer Falls have been completed, fire department allocations have been increased and a $500,000 grant to upgrade Miner Street and Island Park has been secured.
Other items on Ashley’s agenda are a full revaluation of assessments, planning for a new municipal building, the construction of a new sand/salt storage building, further health insurance studies and investing in more road work.
“I hope the town governance teams stay on course to navigate the challenges together. The town is underfunded and understaffed. We must somehow increase staffing to meet the demands,” Ashley explained. “We must somehow increase our investment in transportation infrastructure. Simply put, we don’t have enough funds to maintain 100 miles of town roads.”
If re-elected, what challenges would she expect to face?
“The biggest challenge is governing the COVID pandemic in a financially unstable and unpredictable market and not over taxing the people,” she said. “Elected officials are the keepers of the people’s money. We have been creative in applying a strategic balance with the reality of limited finances.”
“Equally challenging is maintaining a sustainable financial position while addressing departmental needs to provide excellent municipal services,” she continued. “With the new solar law and American Rescue Plan funds, we will be able to offset some of the costs.”
“Having made public service a life-long career for almost 40 years, I have always put my heart and soul into whatever I do, with nothing but the best interests of those I serve. We have been resilient and strong through the state audit and navigating the COVID pandemic. All jobs and benefits were kept.”
“We are a multi-million organization and tough decisions had to be made because of serious past financial and municipal discrepancies. We are now on a clear path to recovery. It would be an honor to serve another term as Town Supervisor.”
Voters will be choosing a town supervisor on Election Day, Nov. 2. Early voting begins Oct. 23 at the Clarkson Facilities Building, 42 Maple St., Potsdam.