Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Separating fact from fiction...

Yesterday's article in the Observer Dispatch, New Hartford town and village disagree over police commission sounds like the Village of New Hartford is trying to use bully tactics to reinstate a police commission that was out of control.

The article states:
The establishment of the police commission was a key part of a 1982 memorandum of understanding in which the town agreed to provide police protection for the village. The village abolished its own police department at that time.
A December 2, 1982 article, states that some time in 1981 or 1982, prior to the adoption of the 1982 village budget, the town and village police departments combined forces as a cost-cutting measure for the village taxpayers:
The village did not have to increase taxes in 1982 because the town and village police departments were combined, he [Mayor Kazanjian] noted. This saved money because all town and village residents paid for one department with a shared group of employees and equipment, instead of footing the bills for two separate departments.
However, according to a June 3, 1982 Daily Press article, the town board voted to form their own police department because the village cancelled their contract to provide police protection to the town. The article says the town police department would be operational by August 1, 1982.

Then according to an article dated October 6, 1983 Daily Press article, Town Urged to Take Over Police Force stated:
The police department now is owned and operated by the village, although the department is providing coverage to the entire town.
Guess the village didn't abolish it's police department in 1982 after signing a memorandum of understanding with the town; according to the article, the police department was still owned by the village in 1983. Could it be that that the Memorandum of Understanding was to set the rules for the combination of the two departments under the ownership of the village that occurred sometime in 1981 or 1982 and had nothing to do with the town taking over operation of the police department?

The 1983 article goes on to say:
"the police commission set up by the village and town of New Hartford recommended that operation of the police department be turned over to the town."
The reason:
"The commission, consisting of five town and village residents, studied the issue for about six months and found that cheaper and better coverage could be provided if the town ran the department."
On September 16, 1984 a referendum was held for village voters to decide whether the Village Police Department should be consolidated into a municipal police department run by the Town of New Hartford. According to the article, Mayor William Keiser asked village residents to support the referendum consolidating the town and village police departments because it would save village taxpayers about $20 per thousand.

The vote was overwhelmingly in favor of consolidation, 210 for and 33 against. According to an article we found dated September 19, 1984, only about 16.2% of the eligible voters actually took the time to vote, more than the 100 voters that Mayor Keiser anticipated would vote.

Yesterday's OD article goes on to say:

If the town arbitrarily abolishes one of the agreement’s stipulations, village officials are concerned there would be nothing to stop it from abolishing others.

“Next step, they could take the police car out of the village,” Ryan said. “Next it’s, ‘provide your own police protection.’”

Ouch, that would hurt, wouldn't it Mayor? However, it is highly unlikely.

Bottom line, in 1984, the village police department was "consolidated" with the town police department; not combined by a 1982 memorandum of understanding. The OD article even makes mention of the fact that the MOU expired Dec. 31, 1983.

Perhaps it would be in the best interest of all concerned if the Mayor tried to work with the town board instead of using threats of a lawsuit and silly statements to try to pressure them to give in to his demands. Every article we found stated that the "consolidated" police department would be run by the town.

Town law clearly states:
...such board of police commissioners or police commissioner shall have and exercise all the powers relative to police matters conferred upon the town board pursuant to this article.
In other words, the police commission, absent a town law to the contrary, assumes the powers of the town board. The abolished police commission was clearly out of control as evidenced by an anonymous letter sent to Concerned Citizens warning us of the commission members' desire to "hurt" us. The letter made it very clear who were the people that were the "most dangerous". Outstanding members of the community, eh?

Total control in the hands of some people is dangerous and underscores the old adage...Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Town of New Hartford Code section 25-5 refers to an adopted resolution of the Town Board on December 18, 1985 that defines the rules, regulations and procedures constituting the operating procedure of the Town of New Hartford Police Department. We have FOILed that resolution.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Video now online...

of the April 14, 2010 Town Board meeting. You can view the video in its entirety on our website.

Next town board meeting is Wednesday, April 28, 2010 at 7 p.m. in Butler Hall.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Cock and Bull Story



Did you happen to read the article in Sunday's Observer Dispatch, Town, business park saddled with problems from tax pact?

Oh, the troubles in the business park are real; it was the comments by New Hartford Central School Superintendent Robert Nole that were absolutely incredible.

According to the article:
New Hartford School Superintendent Robert Nole said even in its troubled state, the business park had already benefitted the school district.
Really, Bob, how's that? How has it benefitted the school district? Hope you aren't referring to the "road to nowhere" at the edge of the business park which was supposed to cross 840 to a shared transportation facility that was the pipe dream of your predecessor. It was suggested to Concerned Citizens that perhaps we should name that road Sarah Palin Lane...how apropos!

The article continues with more from Bob:
Property around it is already getting more valuable, he said. “There have been assessments that have been more than what the original vacant land had produced,” he said of properties near the park. That means more tax dollars for the school district.
What a cockamamie statement!

We sent an email to Superintendent Nole asking for clarification of his statements because we wanted to give Bob the benefit of the doubt; perhaps the OD editors cut out some important parts of Bob's comments and that's why it appeared that he didn't know what he was talking about.

Bob wrote back to us:
Thank you for your inquiry to the recent article concerning the NH Business Park. As far as my quote: " There have been assessments that have been more than what the original vacant land had produced." Please refer to assessment rolls when it was vacant land and compare the value of the Business Park post road and utility improvements. The last time this was reviewed, numbers had increased. As far as the rest of the information pertaining to property values, there are not quotations. Although the way the article reads, it is understood how you may have come to conclusions concerning New Hartford property values. Hopefully, this will clear the misunderstanding.

Best Regards,

Bob
Bob seems to have skipped over the fact that the business park, private property owned by Larry Adler, is the only thing that has increased in value. It increased in value because our tax dollars financed the infrastructure improvements to that private property.

New Hartford School taxpayers will not be seeing any of this "increased value" in the form of increased property tax revenue being applied to the school budget for some time to come. And how soon we see the "increased value" may depend upon whether or not the developer and the taxing entities agree on another PILOT Increment Financing deal to further extend the time before real estate taxes from that private development benefit the school, town and county.

The business park plan was mishandled from the very beginning; town officials and staff even met secretly in an effort to hide the fact that The Hartford was built outside the park, although after their "secret" was revealed, Uncle Larry said in a news article that it was an honest mistake.

Attorney Green certainly made money from the business park deal; former Town Supervisor Earle Reed, actually believes he left the town better off, overall, than it was when he took office; and our dear friend, former New Hartford School Superintendent Dan Gilligan, seems to have quickly moved to Arizona shortly after his retirement.

Now all that's left are the taxpayers, Uncle Larry, a new town board and unresolved problems with the business park.

Concerned Citizens will be watching!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Videotape of latest Stormwater Advisory Committee Meeting...

A meeting of the Stormwater Advisory Committee was held on Tuesday, April 13, 2010 at 5 p.m. in Butler Hall.

Below is a videotape of that meeting:



The next Stormwater Advisory Committee Meeting will be held on May 11, 2010 at 6:00 p.m. in Butler Hall.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Councilman Woodland votes for a 46% tax increase for the 2011 budget...

What part of "broke" doesn't Councilman Woodland understand?

During last night's town board meeting, even after numerous explanations given by Councilman Backman and Supervisor Tyksinski as to why the dissolution of the 911 Dispatch Center had to happen, Councilman Woodland decided to vote "nay" on the resolution put before the town board.

According to the article in today's Observer Dispatch, New Hartford to eliminate 911 center this year:
After the vote, Woodland said he didn’t feel he had enough information to support the plan.
Gee, Richard, are you saying that you had all the information you needed to consistently vote "aye" in support of the misappropriation of funds in the Earle Reed administration that resulted in a 46% tax increase on this year's tax bill? Isn't it a little disingenuous to vote "nay" for a 46% tax increase for this year's budget and "nay" for a plan to save $700,000+ in next year's budget?

In 2008, you also voted "aye" for the $71,000+ overtime for the bookkeeper that she wasn't entitled to. Remember Richard...as a town board member in 1999 you voted "aye" when Resolution 200 was adopted stating that "Ms. Fairbrother is not entitled to earn and/or receive overtime and/or compensatory time effective June 7, 1999". You were the only member of the previous town board that had all the information in that instance, but it didn't seem to matter because you still voted to pay Ms. Fairbrother money she was not entitled to.

The article continues:
He also said the addition of a proposed 30-cent monthly surcharge on cell phones to support the countywide center would be a burden to taxpayers.

“If those questions are answered and we really are going to save money, I would support it,” he said. “But I don’t really have those answers.”
A 30-cent monthly surcharge has your knickers in a knot? How about $30,000+ spent by your cohort, Councilman Dave Reynolds without town board approval and the illegally signed contract that went along with it? Doesn't that bother you Richard...you audit the bills before each town board meeting and still you voted "aye" for that unbudgeted expenditure!

How about all the other backtracking the previous town board had to do to cover up for misdeeds of the former Highway Superintendent Roger Cleveland? Not a problem for you, Richard? You voted "aye" for each one of them.

We do believe that Councilman Woodland needs to get his head out of the sand...2011 is not that far away. As you go door to door asking for support for your re-election, how do you plan on convincing your constituents that you are fighting for them when you vote "aye" for questionable expenditures and "nay" for dissolving a $700,000+ "albatross" that will only cost town residents more as time goes on?

Here is the portion of the town board meeting regarding the dissolution of the Dispatch Center.

Friday, April 9, 2010

New Hartford Central School Budget Calendar...

is now online!

Problem is...the calendar was just put on the school's website a couple of days ago; after we blogged about it and after April 6th when the school board unanimously approved the spending increase.

Here is the calendar schedule on the school's website!

Too bad they didn't let everyone know that the budget meetings started in November 2009; Concerned Citizens could have videotaped them so everyone could see and hear the discussion as the budget was put together.

Now all that's left for you the taxpayer to do is attend the May 4, 2010 Budget Hearing and vote on May 18th.

What are they trying to hide? Perhaps the school district needs some information on the Open Meetings Law as well as the Freedom of Information Law.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Mary, Mary...(cont'd)

We went to the Tuesday April 6, 2010 NHCS board meeting that was held at the Perry Jr. High School hoping to get some information regarding the budget for the 2010-2011 school year.

The meeting last well over 2 hours; however only about 3 minutes was spent on the budget prior to the vote of the board. Here is a copy of the presentation...all of 8 slides - two of which are the title page and "thank you for attending" page.

Not much information, eh? We were told at the school board meeting that voters are merely voting on a "spending" plan; the revenue side won't be available until August when the school actually starts to prepare tax bills and the actual tax rate rate is released.


In a related story...

In our travels on the internet, we came across some interesting articles. Actually, the Observer Dispatch reported on this back in March, Schools could get some budget relief with legislative package; however, they left out the most important part.

According to the Observer Dispatch article:

State Sen. Joseph Griffo, who voted for the four bills, acknowledged that there were flaws, but said the bills were a first step.

“Real authentic mandate relief is what is necessary,” Griffo said. “This is a good signal that we are serious about doing something.”
According to Senator Valesky's Facebook page:

“This package of legislation represents our commitment to government efficiency. It just makes sense to give school districts the tools to best manage their resources, especially in these difficult economic times,” Senator Valesky said.
Senator Valesky seems to have forgotten the taxpayer and Senator Griffo might want to call taking away taxpayers' rights to vote "no" on the school budget a "flaw" in the legislation, but we think there may be more appropriate words for such a move. Perhaps both these gentlemen have been politicians too long!

According to a March 29, 2010 article in the New York Post:

The good news for taxpayers in most of New York is that you can lower your property taxes this year by voting "no" on your local school budget. The bad news is that your state legislators are trying hard to change the law -- to fix it so you can't.
According to a March 16, 2010 article in the Times Union:

Worried about a potential wave of "no" votes for upcoming school budgets, the Senate has passed legislation that would make it easier for districts to increase their budgets even if voters shoot down spending plans.
The bill passed the State Senate on March 15, 2010. Ayes in the Senate include:

Ayes (56): ADAMS, ADDABBO, ALESI, AUBERTINE, BONACIC, BRESLIN, DEFRANCISCO, DIAZ, DILAN, ESPADA, FARLEY, FOLEY, GOLDEN, GRIFFO, HANNON, HASSELL-THOMPSON, JOHNSON C, JOHNSON O, KLEIN, KRUEGER, KRUGER, LANZA, LARKIN, LAVALLE, LEIBELL, LIBOUS, LITTLE, MARCELLINO, MAZIARZ, MCDONALD, MONTGOMERY, NOZZOLIO, ONORATO, OPPENHEIMER, PADAVAN, PARKER, PERKINS, RANZENHOFER, ROBACH, SALAND, SAMPSON, SAVINO, SCHNEIDERMAN, SERRANO, SEWARD, SKELOS, SMITH, SQUADRON, STACHOWSKI, STAVISKY, STEWART-COUSINS, THOMPSON, VALESKY, VOLKER, WINNER, YOUNG
The NY Post article further reports that:

By a vote of 56-2, the state Senate recently passed a bill obscenely misnamed the Education Mandate Relief Act, sponsored by Sen. Suzi Oppenheimer. The bill would "mandate" a 3 percent rise in spending by school districts whose voters reject the budget at the ballot box.
Currently, the bill is in the Assembly.

According to the NYS Assembly website:

A10130 Actions:

BILL NO A10130

03/05/2010 referred to education

-------------------------------------------------------------------------

A10130 Votes:
There are no votes for this bill in the current legislative session.
If passed by the Assembly and signed by the Governor, the bill takes effect for the 2010-2011 School Year. However, according to the N.Y. Post article:
The measure was on a fast track through the Assembly until The Post got wind of it. Thank God for the Fourth Estate.
So, if the Post is correct, this bill is not going to be passed by the Assembly...only time will tell.

A note on the message board, Jerry Moore's School talk, says:

The Assembly should reject this bill. Or it should at least insist that every school tax bill sent this fall contain a prominent note: "This tax increase was brought to you by your state legislator."
For the moment, according to the New York State Education website:

Contingency Budget Cap

2010-11 School Year Cap: 0% (Note: The Executive proposes a minimum contingency budget increase amount of zero percent. When any legislative action occurs, we will update our guidance and information.)
So, we guess the question to the New Hartford Central School Board and Administrators is...with a 0% contingency budget cap looming and the possibility that the legislation will not pass; and, if voters turn down the budget on May 18th, and also turn down the second round of budget vote in June (if the school board decides to hold a second round), then what?

Conversely, the proposed NHCS budget increase is 1.16%, but if the legislation is passed "as is", and the voters turn down the budget, a contingency budget would mandate a 3% increase. So how would this affect the New Hartford budget if the legislation is passed and the voters turn down the budget? According to the NYS Education website:

If the budget originally proposed to the voters is less than the contingency budget cap, how is a contingency budget then calculated?

Cuts would not have to be made to reach the contingency budget cap but would have to be made to meet the definition of contingency appropriations. The proposed budget includes all contingency and necessary expenses to operate the school district (see J. Stevens memo at: Annual School District Budget). When the proposed budget is below the contingency budget cap, the contingency budget is calculated by removing all non-contingency appropriations from the proposed budget. Items which are statutorily considered non-contingency expenses are, for example, student supplies, community use of buildings and grounds, certain equipment purchases and certain salary increases. Therefore, the contingency budget adopted by the Board of Education would always be less than the proposed budget. In this situation, the “Contingency Budget” column of the budget notice mailed to all residents must reflect these reductions.

So how would all this affect the New Hartford School budget for 2010-2011? We posed our questions to Mary Mandel, Assistant Superintendent for Business at New Hartford Central School, but she didn't have an answer for us. However, ultimately whatever scenario plays out, it will be a school board decision.

To the State Assembly...RoAnn & Dave are you listening? Do you plan to push this measure through and stick it to the taxpayers?

Budget information...to be continued!