Coffee with Commissioner’s NOTICE
Due to a conflict with the Virtual State Association Conference opening day, the CWC session originally announced for Saturday October 3rd will be instead held on Saturday October 10th at 9am. We certainly hope you will join us.
Absentee Ballots and CoVid19 Annual Fire District Election
ABSENTEE BALLOTS AND THE COVID- 19 PANDEMIC
From State Association Counsel Joe Frank
Issues related absentee ballots, mail in ballots and early voting are constantly being discussed on radio, television, on the internet and in the newspapers. Over the past few years new laws have been passed at the state and federal level in an attempt to enhance voter participation. For the most part these laws relate to the elections conducted under the state’s Election Law and conducted by the County Board of Elections. There is no early voting for fire district elections.
The ability of voters to vote by absentee ballots in elections conducted by the County Board of Elections has been modified by new laws and by executive orders.
There is currently no requirement to provide absentee ballots for the December 8th fire district elections.
However, on August 24th Governor Cuomo signed Executive Order 202.58 which addressed providing more opportunities for casting a ballot by absentee ballot. It included the following provision;
NOW THEREFORE, I, Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor of the State of New York, by virtue of the authority vested in me by Section 29-a of Article 2-B of the Executive Law to temporarily suspend or modify any statute, local law, ordinance, order, rule, or regulation, or parts thereof, of any agency during a State disaster emergency, if compliance with such statute, local law, ordinance, order, rule, or regulation would prevent, hinder, or delay action necessary to cope with the disaster emergency or if necessary to assist or aid in coping with such disaster, do hereby suspend or modify the following through September 23, 2020:
Sections 15-120 and 15-122 of the Election Law, Sections 2018-a and 2018-b of the Education Law, and Section 84-a of the Town Law, as well as any provision of law related to a special district election taking place prior to November 3, 2020, and not administered by the County Board of Elections to the extent necessary to include the potential for contraction of the COVID-19 virus as an illness for purposes of request or receipt of an absentee ballot;
Thus, it would appear that the Governor has made absentee ballots mandatory for any special district election which occurs prior to November 3rd .
Any fire district which conducts a special election between September 15th and November 3rd will therefore be required to provide absentee ballots as outlined in the Executive Order.
As you will recall, a prior executive order had delayed all summer special district elections until September 15th .
One question that arises with regard to Executive Order 202.58 is how does a fire district holding a special election go about setting up the process to permit absentee ballot voting?
In theory, the executive order would suspend Town Law §175-b which permits, but does not require a fire district to provide for absentee voting.
It would appear that a fire district conducting a special election between September 15th and November 3rd should place a statement in the election legal notice that in accordance with Executive Order 202.58 issued by Governor Cuomo on August 24, 2020 absentee ballots will be available for registered voters of the fire district who are concerned with the spread of COVID- 19 and would like to vote by absentee ballot. The notice should also explain a process to request, obtain and return an absentee ballot.
Again, let us emphasize that as of this date no Executive Order has been issued pertaining to the fire district elections that will occur in December 8th .
We will continue to keep you advised on developments related to this matter.
What is the Civil Service Status of a Secretary to the Fire District??
Section 35 of the Civil Service Law provides in relevant part, as follows:
“The unclassified service shall comprise the following:
(c) all officers and employees of the state legislature, and all officers and employees of any other legislative body whose principal functions and duties are directly related to the performance of the legislative functions of such body.”
Under this standard, if fire district boards of commissioners are considered legislative bodies, the fire district secretary, as a fire district officer whose principal duties relate closely to the commissioners’ functions, would fall within the unclassified service. The question then becomes whether the board of fire commissioners is to be considered a legislative body for purposes of the Civil Service Law.
It is well established that the unclassified service is not limited to employees of the State Legislature, but includes employees of the legislative bodies of civil subdivisions of the State and Fire districts are considered political subdivisions of the State. Fire Districts fall under the category of “district corporation” which is defined in the following way:
“A ‘district corporation’ includes any territorial division of the state, other than a municipal corporation, heretofore or hereafter established by law which possesses the power to contract indebtedness and levy taxes or benefit assessments upon real estate or to require the levy of such taxes or assessments, whether or not such territorial division is expressly declared to be a body corporate and politic by the statute creating or authorizing the creation of such territorial division.
Fire district commissioners are elected by residents of the fire district pursuant to section 175 of the Town Law. The powers and duties of a fire district fire commissioners are set forth in section 176 of the Town Law. Among these is the power to organize, operate, maintain and equip fire companies; to adopt rules governing all fire companies and fire departments throughout the district, and prescribing the duties of the members; to enforce discipline and provide for public drills, parades, funerals, inspections and reviews of the fire district fire department; and to audit all claims against the fire district. Thus, the commissioners are the sole governing body of the fire district, responsible for the determination of fire department policy. They exercise their powers separately and discretely from the town board. In our opinion, these functions make the board of fire commissioners a legislative body for purposes of section 35 of the Civil Service Law.
The fire district secretary actively participates in the commissioner’s legislative functions, thus in the opinion of the NYS Attorney General, the secretary’s principal functions and duties relate to the legislative functions of the commissioners, placing the secretary in the unclassified service within the meaning of section 35 of the Civil Service Law.
Accordingly, we conclude that fire district secretary is a member of the unclassified civil service.
Today’s Challenge is tomorrow’s Opportunity
Fall Winter Virtual Educational Series
An Educational Series for Commissioner, Secretaries & Treasurers
Unfortunately COVID-19 forced us to cancel both the Annual Meeting and the Leadership Summit & Vendor Show. In true First Responder spirit, the AFDSNY has accepted the Challenge and created a new Opportunity to connect with and serve the Fire Districts of New York State.
As an alternative to our regular conference we are hosting a series of virtual educational sessions from October 2020 through March 2021!
Don’t miss the first session
Annual & Special Elections
Monday, September 21 at 4:30pm
Register as an individual or register up to 7 people for the entire FIRE DISTRICT for a reduced fee!
Full Registrations include all 15+ sessions
No Worries if you miss one, all registrants automatically receive a video link good for 30 day from the session date to watch at your convenience
Select Session Registration – select and pay for only the sessions you are interested in.
Register before 9/27 for Early Bird Rates!
Early Bird rates:
Individual Full Package $110
Individual Select Sessions $15 per session
Fire District Full package $500
Fire District Select Sessions $50 per session
Go Here to Register: https://www.afdsny.org/virtual_fall_winter_educationa.php
Local Government (Fire District) Accounting Class from OSC
2020 GOVERNMENTAL ACCOUNTING CLASS SCHEDULE FROM OSC
Register for Accounting Schools Now!
Cost: $85 for local officials and government employees including Fire District treasurers, commissioners
Introduction to Governmental Accounting (Basic Accounting School) – This multi-day school is designed to familiarize participants with the basic concepts of governmental accounting and give them a working knowledge of basic bookkeeping procedures such as understanding debits and credits, a discussion of the modified accrual system of accounting, the practice of maintaining the books and records, developing and accounting for the annual budget, as well as the year-end closing process. This school is for those individuals who possess some accounting experience, but are newcomers to governmental accounting in New York. It will benefit Chief Executive Officers, Chief Fiscal Officers, Comptrollers, Treasurers, Clerks, and Accounting Personnel.
October 14-16, 2020– Online
October 27-29, 2020– Online
Accounting Principles and Procedures (Advanced Accounting School) – This multi-day school is designed to familiarize participants with accounting and financial reporting requirements for local governments in New York. The course provides guidance on certain operational issues, such as cash management, purchasing, processing claims for payment, accounting for capital projects and utilizing reserve funds. This school is a good follow-up to our Introduction course, although attending the Introduction is not a prerequisite. It will benefit Chief Executive Officers, Chief Fiscal Officers, Comptrollers, Treasurers, Clerks, Accounting Personnel, Board Members and Department Heads.
September 29-30, 2020– Online
November 17-18, 2020– Online
Please share with your Board Members. All local officials are welcome to attend.
Upcoming ESIP Training Webinars – – Please Share
Wednesday, Sept. 30th: Fundraising Strategies for Fire and EMS Services
Description: The current pandemic has brought concerns and challenges to emergency response agencies that rely on fund raising to complete their financial needs. Join Dave Denniston and guests as we explore some of the advantages and pitfalls of both traditional and non-traditional fund raising activities.
Wednesday, Oct. 7th: Fire and EMS Diversity and Inclusion
Description: Diversity and Inclusion are two topics we hear a lot in this country today. But what does that mean for fire and ems agencies? In this session we will explore ways to capitalize on the diversity in both your own organization and the community you protect. We will also look at common problems for agencies that fail to except and embrace it.
Legislative Wrap Up to Date
It’s unknown if the Legislature will come back into session. Bills will continue to be introduced as we proceed toward this year’s elections.
Fire Service Wrap Up of the Session to Date: 2020 wrap up
August 2020 Update to the Legislative Scorecard
Legislation that affects Fire Districts, several new bills you need to know about!! Keeps tabs, more to come.
Tax Cap Below 2% for 2021
Property tax levy growth for local governments with fiscal years closing Dec. 31 will be capped at 1.56 percent for 2021, according to State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. This figure affects tax cap calculations for all counties, towns, fire districts, 44 cities and 11 villages.
“The pandemic and the fiscal uncertainties municipalities are facing add to the challenge of adhering to the tax cap,” DiNapoli said. “At the same time the levy growth rate is dropping, both revenues and spending could deviate significantly from what was planned. Local governments must closely monitor their budgets to ensure they are balanced and that they have cash on hand.”
The tax cap, which first applied to local governments and school districts in 2012, limits annual tax levy increases to the lesser of the rate of inflation or 2 percent with certain exceptions, including a provision that allows municipalities to override it. The cap is just one of many fiscal pressures facing local governments during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 1.56 percent allowable levy growth factor for the 2021 fiscal year is the first-time municipalities with a fiscal year ending on Dec. 31 had their levy growth capped at less than 2 percent in three years. Levy growth was capped at 2 percent for these municipalities due to inflation above 2 percent in recent years.
The allowable growth factor for 2021 will be 1.0156 for fire districts.
Looking for Members to Return
- The Capital Area can appreciate that it has been a very distracting year and we would like to remind some of our usual members that their dues have not been sent in yet; East Glenville #3, Elsmere, Glenville #5, Halfmoon FD #1, Hoosic Falls Joint Fire Dist., Perth, & Rotterdam #6. We would like to see you join for 2020.
The CoVid LOSAP Amendment has been Signed Into Law
SUMMARY OF PROVISIONS: Section 1 amends General Municipal Law § 217 relation to Length of Service Award Programs ("LOSAP's") in order to address the impact of the COVID 19 crisis on the ability of volunteer firefighter participants to achieve performance points under the program point system in light of changes to emergency response protocols and the cancellation of activ- ities for which points can be earned. Adds a new subparagraph (q) to address developments in how volunteer fire departments respond to emergencies in order to limit certain responses for reasons of safety and efficiency. Makes subsequent amend- ments to GML 219-e and 219-m, to allow volunteer ambulance workers to achieve performance points under the program.
Coffee With the Commissioners
Next opportunity will be on Saturday July 18th at 9am Join Director Dave Denniston, Attorney Joe Frank and Past President Tom Rinaldi What would you like to talk about, questions welcome.