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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Voice of the Residents’ Budget...

That was the title of the talk given by New Hartford Public Library Trustee and Treasurer Earl Cunningham at the June 20, 2012 library board meeting.

Before Mr. Cunningham's presentation, Board President Linda Romano gave a brief intro:

After the meeting, Ms. Lawrence inquired as to the location of the surveys that Ms. Romano referred as being analyzed in a "scientific procedure" in an effort to find out what the residents of New Hartford want to see in their library; supposedly these surveys provided the justification for the 67% increased budget. A FOIL request for the surveys was filed shortly thereafter.

After some back and forth emails [ see our blog "Since when is a FOIL request..." ], Ms. Lawrence was provided copies of the surveys.

We analyzed two surveys that were received; one called "Library Computer Survey" and another called "Survey 2012".

Total "Library Computer Surveys" provided was 22; 11 from New Hartford residents and 11 from other than New Hartford residents [primarily Utica residents].

Most of the suggestions were for more computer classes and a couple of suggestions that would be considered policy changes.

Then we looked at the "Survey 2012" forms. There were 127 total forms with addresses; 69 from New Hartford residents and 59 from other than New Hartford residents.

To give an idea of where those who are not from New Hartford live, there were survey respondents from Burlington Flats, Whitesboro, Frankfort, Utica, Marcy, Sangerfield, Richfield Springs, West Winfield, Clinton, Waterville, Bridgewater, Sauquoit, Rome, Herkimer and Clayville.

We took it one step further by looking to see how many of the sixty-nine (69) New Hartford residents had suggestions.

Exactly forty-four (44) New Hartford residents had suggestions that ranged from more books, more children activities on school vacation days, computer lessons, to being open on Wednesdays.

While twenty-five (25) of New Hartford respondents either had no suggestions or merely said that they were happy with the library just as it is!

(a) almost half the people that filled out the 2012 Survey do not pay New Hartford taxes and therefore, are not required to fund the library at this point;

(b) Of the survey takers that are not from New Hartford, none would be required to pay to support the $1,000,000 library budget if the recharter vote is successful because they do not live in the New Hartford Central School District;

(c) about 1/3 of the New Hartford residents who filled out a survey either had no suggestion or stated they were completely happy with the library as is; and

(d) Forty-four (44) suggestions from town residents is hardly representative of a majority of taxpayers...sixty-nine (69) TOTAL New Hartford responses is not even enough to be considered a survey that is representative of the taxpayers in New Hartford.

In case you missed Mr. Cunningham's presentation when we posted it after the meeting, we are posting once again. Mr. Cunningham goes point by point through the budget and gives his justification for a budget of almost $1,000,000.

One last thing, according to page 5 of the 2011 Annual Report for Public And Association Libraries, filed with NYS Library each year, 33% of the registered borrowers using the New Hartford Public Library do not live in New Hartford.

The library recharter, 2013-14 budget and trustee vote will be held on August 23, 2012 at the New Hartford Public Library. Absentee ballots are available.

Monday, July 23, 2012

New Hartford Public Library Vote...Dear Chuck,

In response to your comment left on our blog New Hartford Public Library Re-chartering...Here's their numbers... where you said:
I believe Mr Cunningham spread sheet is right. A $150000 house in New Hartford would be assessed at 150000 X .84 or $126000. The tax on that house would be 126 X $.66 or $83.16. The idea of equalization to get everyone paying the same ammount for the same true house value.
Unfortunately, Chuck, you and Mr. Cunningham are both wrong.

First of all, the library tax is an ad valorem tax, meaning that it is based on the assessed value of each parcel.

That being said, since the New Hartford Central School District crosses town lines to include not only the Town of New Hartford, but also the towns of Paris, Kirkland and Frankfort, it is necessary to apply the equalization rate of each town to the total taxable value of each town in order to determine the tax rate [or the share of the total levy] attributed to each town. The equalization rate is not applied to the assessed value of each parcel as in the example you provided in your comment.

Oneida County taxes also cross municipal boundaries and the same method used to determine the tax rate for each municipality for Oneida County taxes will be used to figure taxes for the New Hartford Public Library if they are successful in rechartering as a school district library.

To show that our reasoning is correct, we visited the Oneida County website to randomly looked up two (2) parcels in Kirkland, Paris and New Hartford; each parcel is assessed for $150,000. We wanted to determine the amount that each property owner pays for their Oneida County taxes.

If, as you state, Mr. Cunningham is correct, then each property owner assessed for $150,000 would pay the same amount of Oneida County taxes regardless of the town the parcel is located in.

We created a spreadsheet showing the two (2) parcels from each town:

Click here for a larger view of our spreadsheet!

Our spreadsheet clearly shows that in each town a parcel assessed for $150,000 pays the same as other like assessed parcels in their own town, but a parcel with an assessed value of $150,000 in Kirkland pays more county tax than a $150,000 assessed value home in New Hartford or Paris. A parcel assessed for $150,000 in Kirkland pays $1,649.03; followed by New Hartford at $1,222.26; with the Town of Paris paying the least at $1,012.25.

Several parcels in the Town of Frankfort are also in the New Hartford Central School District; however, they are in Herkimer County so we did not use them for this comparison.

Let's look again at Mr. Cunningham's spreadsheet.

According to Mr. Cunningham's spreadsheet, all homes in the New Hartford Central School District with an assessed value of $150,000 [which is typically used as an average assessed value in New Hartford] will pay about $83 a year regardless if they live in New Hartford, Kirkland, Paris or Frankfort; yet Mr. Cunningham shows a different tax rate for each town. That just doesn't make sense.


here is our spreadsheet:

Just as Oneida County tax rates are dependent upon the equalization rate of each municipality, so will the taxes paid to support the New Hartford Public Library as a school district library be dependent on where you live.

If the library recharter vote is successful, New Hartford Central School District residents who live in Kirkland will pay the most at $.85 per thousand of assessed value or $128 for a home assessed $150,000; New Hartford will pay $.66 per thousand of assessed value or about $99 on a $150,000 assessed value; Frankfort will pay $.74 per thousand or about $111 for a home assessed at $150,000 and the Town of Paris NHCSD residents will pay the least at $.55 per thousand of assessed value or about $83 for a home assessed for $150,000.

The fact that some of the NHCSD taxpayers in the other towns already have their own library that they support with their tax dollars will be a difficult pill to swallow to be sure; however, the most egregious part is the fact that the New Hartford Public Library Board of Trustees never reached out to the residents of Paris, Frankfort and Kirkland to make it known that, as residents within the New Hartford Central School District, they could also gather signatures to seek a spot on the board of trustees in the upcoming election should rechartering be approved by voters. An article placed in the New Hartford Town Crier will never reach taxpayers in other towns. The library trustees should be ashamed of themselves for that!

Chuck, we hope we have helped to clarify the cost for taxpayers if the library is rechartered as a school district library. We welcome all comments...

Thursday, July 19, 2012

New Hartford Public Library Trustees fail to secure bids for a $34,000 project...

Yesterday at noon, the New Hartford Public Library Board of Trustees held their last meeting before the $1,000,000 library rechartering vote which is being held at the library on August 23, 2012. The August trustee meeting has been cancelled.

If you have traveled over Oxford Road in the past couple of weeks, you might have seen work being done to the roof in the front part of the library. Those repairs were part of the discussion at yesterday's meeting.

Trustee Wiatr questioned the group as to the bidding process that was followed prior to contracting for the work. Trustee Wiatr had no idea that the work was to be done since it was never brought before the board.

The library's own purchasing policy does state that they will "seek the lowest prices for comparable quality items and shall secure quotes and when required bids from reputable businesses."

However, it appears this did not happen. Instead a member of the board acted upon information obtained from a library employee who got the information from her husband that the firm hired was the "best roofing company in town" without any input from the board of trustees.

Below is the portion of the meeting where Trustee Wiatr questions members of the board regarding the lack of a Statement of Work and bids for the roof repair. If you are wondering how a $1,000,000 budget will be managed, take a look at how their current $600,000 budget is being managed. Notice that, other than Trustee Wiatr, no one else is concerned about their lack of due diligence.

The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Wind Energy Legislation...tabled at the July 11, 2012...

After almost two (2) years of work [the discussion was first brought up at the December 8, 2010 town board meeting] on the proposed Wind Energy Local Law and a Public Hearing that was finally held on May 23, 2012, the document has been sent back to the drawing board.

The decision to vote against the legislation came as a surprise to almost everyone in attendance.

In fact, the biggest surprise was when two councilmen made the motions to adopt the legislation and then they voted 'nay' when the roll call vote was taken, leaving only Councilman Backman voting 'aye' to adopt when all was said and done.

The dissenting councilmen echoed the opinion of Supervisor Tyksinski that the setback distances need reviewing and possible revising particularly the regulations for the larger commercial grades turbines.

Councilman Miscione said he didn't want to see wind turbines in his neighborhood in South Woods. However, Councilman Backman stated that there were few areas in New Hartford where the commercial grade turbines could be built because of the set-back distance required by the local law that was being proposed.

Even though Councilman Backman tried to assure the other board members by adding that the local law could be amended at a later date if necessary, it wasn't enough to convince a majority of board members that the local law, as written, was in the best interest of town residents.

On February 9, 2011, the New Hartford Town Board adopted a moratorium:

RESOLVED that the New Hartford Town Board does hereby impose a moratorium on windpower – windmills in the Town of New Hartford until such time that the Advisory Committee on Zoning Law submits their report and action to said Town Board, or until December 31, 2011, whichever occurs first.
That moratorium has now expired. Isn't some regulation better than none?

Supervisor Tyksinski also stated that he believed wind turbines were noisy and ugly and that was part of his reasons for not adopting the local law that would at least have been a start at regulating any possible wind turbines that might be proposed in New Hartford.


Shortly after the July 11, 2012 meeting, we were sent a picture of a proposal that is currently "under wraps" that might explain why Supervisor Tyksinski was pushing for the board to not adopt the local law that would have set into motion strict guidelines for siting wind turbines in New Hartford...

Click on the picture for a larger view!

However, please keep in mind that this proposed wind farm is all just hearsay at this point. We have been unable to confirm any such proposal is on the table.

However, our informants have told us that Supervisor Tyskinski has been overheard in Butler Hall saying New Hartford probably could deal with "a little ugly" if it meant jobs and increased hotel business in the park. After all, some of the construction workers will be needing a place to stay until the job is done, right? ROFL..

In the interim, we are providing the actual video of the Public Hearing held May 23, 2012 and the discussion/vote at the July 11, 2012 town board meeting.

May 23, 2012 Public Hearing

Board Vote 07-11-12

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Much Ado about Nothing?

After last night's Zoning Board of Appeals meeting was adjourned, one member of the ZBA said he wanted to discuss something. Apparently, he thought he would wait until after we left; but we didn't leave. Instead we kept the camera rolling.

Town Attorney Cully informed the ZBA that anything that was discussed among the board members regarding town business had to be discussed in open meeting. So a vote was held to reopen the meeting.

Then ZBA board member Taras Tesak started the conversation.

It seems that a letter sent by Concerned Citizens regarding Mr. Adler's interpretation request upset Mr. Tesak. Actually, by the time Mr. Tesak was finished talking in circles, it was difficult to ascertain exactly what his problem was except to say that he is clearly biased against Concerned Citizens. Perhaps Mr. Tesak's complaint centered more around the fact that our letter did not support Mr. Adler's assertion that gas pumps are an accessory use more than anything else although he valiantly tried to speak in general terms.

The crux of Mr. Tesak's complaint was that he thought it unfair that we hand-delivered a letter to the Codes Department regarding Mr. Adler's request for an interpretation as to whether or not gas pumps were permitted in the Planned Highway Business District. Apparently after the ZBA secretary consulted with the town attorney, our letter was then sent to all board members and Mr. Adler.

At one point he said that everyone at the meeting including the public should be privy to what we wrote. We couldn't agree more. In fact, the FOI Law was recently changed so that information provided to the governing board should be available to the public before or at the meeting.

Anyone remember when we asked Mr. Adler for copies of his rezoning handouts at the March 12, 2012 Planning Board meeting and he denied us; then Attorney Cully said we would need to FOIL them. Is there a double standard in New Hartford?

In keeping with the FOI Law, we came prepared with handouts for anyone that wanted a copy. The ZBA secretary said she had extra copies as well if anyone wanted one. Prior to Monday's meeting, we even hand-delivered a copy to one resident in the vicinity of the proposed project who spoke against it at the June 18th Public Hearing; but Mr. Tesak didn't know that because he never bothered to ask. He just sat making statements that clearly were directed at Concerned Citizens.

Here is the letter we wrote to members of the Zoning Board of Appeals outlining the reasons why Mr. Adler's request should be denied. We are happy to share with anyone who would like to read it.

Mr. Tesak also thought that we should have been required to make a presentation at the Monday night meeting explaining our point of view with time being given to Mr. Adler to present his side. Mr. Tesak said he has seen people "poop their pants" when they found out they had to make a presentation to the board and it wasn't fair that we didn't have to make a presentation.

Well, Mr. Tesak, you could have left your pooper scooper at home last night; we definitely wouldn't have pooped our pants.  We actually would have welcomed the opportunity to present our case. We came well-prepared to do so; however, Mr. Adler never showed up at last night's meeting...that was his choice. Your assumption that we had no intention of sharing our findings with those present is just ass-umption.

This isn't the first time, Mr. Tesak has attacked us at a ZBA meeting; and it probably won't be the last. Mr. Tesak keeps referring to us as "that independent group" and fails to recognize the fact that we are taxpayers just like him and we have the right to videotape all meetings. We also have the right to send letters in support of, or contrary to, anything brought before any board be it ZBA, Planning Board, Town Board, etc.

We've videotaped many ZBA meetings and we have never seen the public given copies of letters written to the ZBA prior to the meeting. Sometimes the letters have been read, sometimes they are summarized and sometimes they are not read at all, but if we want copies we always seem to need to FOIL them.

So just what is Mr. Tesak saying? From now on, Mr. Tesak, should anyone who writes a letter for or against a proposed project have to come to the meeting to defend their thoughts or just that Concerned Citizens should have to do so?

In keeping with Mr. Tesak's assertion that the public should be privy to everything, we are making the video of Mr. Tesak's concerns available for all to view.

Mr. Tesak, if you are reading our blog...have a nice day!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Since when is a FOIL request…

...considered childish and bullying?

Apparently when an organization that is covered under FOI Law does not want to give out the information that they claim supports their need for a $1,000,000 budget.

We have reviewed many videos of library meetings and almost every meeting since the rechartering talks began, Board President Linda Romano refers to a survey that was taken at the library regarding comments and suggestions of their patrons.

Recently, Ms. Romano pointed to those surveys as being a basis for their new $1,000,000 budget that will be voted on August 23, 2012.

As co-founder of Concerned Citizens, Ms. Lawrence FOILed the surveys. The response from the library was that Ms. Lawrence would need to give the library $55 for copies of the surveys.

However, FOI Law is quite clear, if the documents can be scanned with no more effort than copying and the request is for scanned records, the library is obligated to provide them electronically at no cost. Ms. Lawrence sent the library a copy of an opinion letter authored by Robert Freeman to support her claim that the records must be provided electronically.

Shortly thereafter, Ms. Lawrence received an email from Trustee Connie Stephens telling her that the requested copies were available for pickup at the library desk.

When Ms. Lawrence arrived at the library desk, the copies were given to her, but not before being requested for identification and to sign and print her name on a paper stating that she had received the copies. This is a first...FOI Law does not require anyone to provide identification or sign anything before being given records. However, Ms. Lawrence complied without complaint.

Upon returning home, Ms. Lawrence sent a thank-you note to Trustee Stephens and in return received a curt email answer:
Catherine Lawrence: Your copy charges in the amount of $55.00 have been paid for by a third party. Connie Stephens=
A couple of days later, Library Trustee Wiatr received a letter via U.S. Mail from Michael Stephens who is apparently Library Trustee Connie Stephens’ husband.

Here is a link to the letter received by Trustee Wiatr.

Upon information and belief, Mr. Stephens is an attorney at the law firm of Kernan and Kernan. Perhaps he thought his letter would intimidate Ms. Lawrence and Trustee Wiatr. Obviously, he doesn’t know them or he would have saved his time, paper, envelope and stamp.

It's unfortunate that Ms. Lawrence and Mr. Wiatr have to resort to FOILing documents to get information out to the public on the upcoming library vote.

According to the NYS Education website regarding the steps to rechartering:
The library board and appropriate working committees conduct a campaign to educate the community and advocate for passage of the proposition.
However, the library has refused to even talk to the press. This is an important vote that will affect school tax bills going forward if the rechartering is successful; yet with a little over a month to go, the library is keeping the public in the dark.

Ms. Lawrence and Edmund J. Wiatr, Jr. are co-founders of Concerned Citizens because they are two people in New Hartford who are not afraid to put their names in print. They are not afraid to speak out even against the “Family and Friends” crowd. They speak for those of us who are afraid to publicly go against the “in” crowd for fear of reprisal. For that we should all thank them.

The least we can all do to support the volunteer efforts of Ms. Lawrence and Mr. Wiatr is vote on the library rechartering proposition on August 23, 2012.

It doesn't matter whether you vote for or against, but for crying out loud, take the time to vote!

If you will be out of town on August 23, 2012, absentee ballot applications are available from the school district and are due prior to 5 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 16th!

Town Board Meeting tonight...

Wednesday, July 11, 2012 starting at 7:00 p.m.. in Butler Hall.

Agenda now online!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Agree or Disagree on the proposal; one thing is for sure...

...the silence by the New Hartford Library Board of Trustees regarding the vote for New Hartford Central School District taxpayers to fund the New Hartford Public Library to the tune of almost $1,000,000 is shameful!

The Observer Dispatch ran an article in today's paper, N. Hartford library: A public or school facility? Voters to decide; however, several pieces of information were either incorrect, left out or purposely not made available to the OD reporter by Library President Linda Romano. The article also included a link to a supplemental story, Types of Libraries, Public Vote, Proposal.

The OD article states:
The decision to change the library’s status came after years of funding decreases from the town and Oneida County, Linda Romano, president of the library Board of Trustees has said. She would not comment further recently.
In contrast, a YNN report on November 7, 2011 said:
The board will vote November 16 on whether to move forward with rechartering.

Trustees say if they vote in favor of rechartering, they'll launch a campaign to get information out to the public, including focus groups and informational meetings.
At that time, the library was talking about a possible $500,000 to $600,000 proposal. That proposal has now ballooned to $996,975 with a tax levy of $893,675.

With a little over a month before the vote, where is the campaign to get information to the public?

Why are the NHCSD residents who live in Frankfort, Paris and Kirkland being ignored? Why aren't they being told that they can run for trustee or that for some, the library will actually cost them more per thousand of assessed value than residents in the town of New Hartford?

We FOILed copies of the petitions that were filed with the New Hartford Central School District on June 8, 2012 asking to hold the August 23, 2012 referendum.

Among those signing the petitions are Town Supervisor Tysinski, New Hartford Finance Director Dan Dreimiller, Councilman Richard Woodland, Councilman David Reynolds, New Hartford Village Mayor Don Ryan, and NYS Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney, among others. [We still have to show the video of at least one person in town who publicly stated he thinks the library is not asking for enough money...stay tuned for that].

We question whether these same politicians are also in favor of New Hartford Library President Linda Romano's silence on the proposed 67% increase in library spending.

How do these politicians feel about the numerous meetings of the Rechartering Committee held behind closed doors in violation of the Open Meetings Law that even left some library trustees out of the loop?

Where do the other councilmen stand...Councilman Backman? Councilman Miscione?

Both of you voted "no" on the $50,000 of sales tax money that was given to the library after a gentlemen's agreement was negotiated behind closed doors. Where do each of you stand on this vote?

Are you ready to support Supervisor Tyksinski's assertion that the town budget will be reduced by $400,000 in 2014 as was stated by Supervisor Tyskinski in today's article?
If the plan is approved, the 2014 budget could be adjusted and the library funding would be a savings to the taxpayers, Tyksinski said.

How about the Town Supervisors in Kirkland, Frankfort and Paris. We are sure they are all aware of the vote because we contacted them to get their assessment database and we stated exactly why we wanted the information. What is their opinion?

How about Anthony Hallak, New Hartford Central School attorney as well as attorney for the Town of Kirkland where NHCSD taxpayers will be paying the most per thousand of assessed value to fund the NH library and who have been kept in the dark by library trustees so far? Care to comment, Attorney Hallak?

Here are the copies of the petitions that were signed in favor of the $1 million budget, presented to the school district and approved by the New Hartford Central School District Board at their June 19, 2012 meeting.

Library President Linda Romano has stated at many library board meetings that NHCS Superintendent Robert Nole is overwhelmingly in favor of the rechartering so it should be no surprise that the school district has agreed to hold this special election and pay all costs associated with the August 23, 2012 library vote.

It's your call New Hartford Central School Districts taxpayers. However, if you can't find the time to vote on August 23, 2012, don't act surprised next September when you get your school tax bill.

Absentee ballot applications are available from the school district and are due prior to 5 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 16th.

You can view all the previous blogs we have written on the many problems at the New Hartford Public Library and the upcoming vote here!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Would you like to be a New Hartford Public Library Trustee...

if they are successful in their bid to be a school district library?

As a school district library, trustees would no longer be appointed by the town board, but rather will be voted in office by the voters of the New Hartford Central School District.

As part of the referendum for rechartering the library as a school district library on August 23, 2012, registered voters of the New Hartford Central School District will be able to vote for seven (7) trustees that will take office if the vote to recharter is successful.

Please note, however, if the proposition to recharter the library fails, the trustees who currently serve will continue until the end of their term and the New Hartford Town Board will continue to appoint library board members.

In order to become a school district library trustee, you will need to obtain the signatures of at least twenty-five (25) registered voters in the New Hartford Central School District on a nominating petition. It is recommended that you obtain at least fifty (50) to sixty (60) signatures to allow for any signatures that may be disallowed due to technicalities.

To be a trustee, you must:
  • be a citizen of the United States
  • be at least 18 years old
  • be a resident of the New Hartford Central School District for a period of at least one (1) year prior to the date of the election [on August 23, 2012]
Trustee petition packets can be picked up at the New Hartford Public Library. However, for your convenience, we are also providing a copy of the trustee petition information packet to include instructions and the nominating petitions that you will need to submit for a place on the ballot.

All signatures on your nominating petitions must be of registered voters in the New Hartford Central School District.

The signatures must be returned to the Business Office at the New Hartford Central School, 29 Oxford Road, New Hartford no later than 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday July 24, 2012.

Please consider "putting your hat in the ring" to become a member of the New Hartford Public Library Board of Trustees. This is a great opportunity to serve your community.