Follow Up on the
Good News Impending?
And yet the
state’s current budget impasse, where Governor David
Paterson is wrestling to prevent a major shortfall before
year’s end, and the advent of new budget negotiations,
has everyone worried. Given that it’s the governor
who has final approval of the Route 28 repaving.
At the same time, everyone’s been watching with interest
as the U.S. Congress started discussion of new funding for
road and other employment-building infrastructure projects
this week, to supplement the American Recovery and Reinvestment
Act monies that are being looked at, via dribs and drabs,
to complete the Route 28 job. Maybe there’s more to
augment the leftovers from unfounded projects that the county’s
been hoping to spend up here along our corridor.
And yet there’s health care to get through first.
And climate change. And the federal budget’s appropriation
“We’re working extremely hard with the Governor’s
office on this,” said Ulster County Executive Michael
Hein about the finishing of Route 28 this past week. “Hopefully
we’ll be hearing something this week.”
Hein noted that the $7.5 million necessary for the work
seems to have been made available by other counties losing
their ARRA funding because their projects weren’t
as ready to start as Ulster County’s. And he added
that the fact that he’s chairman of the county Transportation
Council has made it easier to make sure all I’s have
been dotted, all t’s crossed for the “due diligence”
needed by the state and feds on this type of funding.
Head of the county Planning Department Dennis Doyle, however,
says he feels it’s still to early to say anything
certain about Route 28 funding.
“I’m working with the New York State Department
of Transportation on this. We’ve made our specific
requests,” he said. “It’s endgame for
these ARRA funds, so it’s been a tricky process.”
He added that the ball’s fully in the governor’s
hands, or at least his office, for the moment. He predicted
not hearing anything certain for another two weeks but then
adds that, “I’ve been hearing about that last
two weeks for weeks now.”
Nevertheless, he says it doesn’t matter, workwise,
for the moment.
“Nothing would start until spring anyway,” said
Doyle, who has been coordinating the county’s stimulus
and recovery act funding requests all year. “The asphalt
plants are closed up for the year.”
The spending plan passed with little board discussion other
than a dismissal of questions from Rita Vanacore, who was defeated
in an independent bid for the town board the previous week.
“I know you are going to pass the budget but I want to
register my objection,” Vanacore said. “I think
you really should be tightening your belt and I feel that we
should not be seeing any increase this year.”
Vanacore, who has a letter outlining her objections to the town’s
2010 budget and overall budgeting process in the letters column
of this paper, has objected to the manner in which the town’s
longserving majority has maintained high contingency levels
in their spending plans far above the three to four percent
amounts state officials suggest, often to levels over ten percent.
Furthermore, she noted that benefit share packages okayed years
ago had never been implemented, and inferred that the town’s
use of pay raises and benefits seemed similar to the sort of
machine politics civil service decrees were initated to bring
an end to over a century ago.
Others have complained that it doesn’t seem right to be
maintaining such contingency levels and generous employee packages
at a time when town taxpayers on fixed incomes are cutting corners,
and taxes are rising on school, county, state and federal levels,
too. They’ve also pointed out what board opponents are
calling “discrepancies” of up to 60 percent between
projected budget line items and actual expenditures, asking
why taxpayers are being asked to cover what they term as either
major padding or sloppy and/or anachronistic accounting practices
The board thanked Vanacore after she spoke and voted their budget
in unanimously, with their usual opposition vote, from Republican
Pete Friedel, absent due to an emergency services call out on
Two resolutions came up during the meeting, one involving changes
to the way employees reported their “retirement hours,”
and the other a matter that outgoing boardmember Helen Chase
asked to be tabled because of its wording. Bruce LaMonda also
suggested that all cell phones be turned off before meetings,
which resulted in a third motion, second, and passage as a resolution…
albeit with inclusion of a suggestion from Vanacore, a former
Onteora board member and Olive Matters organizer, that announcements
to such effect be made before all meetings.
Altogether, the meeting took half an hour.
At the earlier November 5 budget hearing, about $100,000 from
the original amount to be raised by taxes by moving amounts
set aside for capital reserves and small trims on board and
other salaries, as well as several departmental support items.
When Vanacore asked about the unexpended balance and how it
works, and is supposed to work, LaMonda quipped, “What
don’t you understand about this?”
When Vanacore persisted, stating that would prefer less than
an 11% unexpended balance each year, town supervisor Bert Leifeld
replied that she and others wouldn’t be happy the coming
year “when I come to you with only $75,000 in unexpended
balance and have to raise your taxes even higher.”
“I would rather have my money now, Vanacore replied at
the time, “Than to be giving extra to the town.”
The board’s next meeting, on Tuesday, December 8 with
a workshop gathering the night before, both at the town meeting
hall on Bostock Road in Shokan, is expected to include reports
from the New York City DEP on its bridge repairs along Route
28A, as well as some persistent local zoning issues.
Meanwhile, all eyes are turning to the county, which was holding
a public hearing on its own 2010 budget Tuesday evening as this
paper went to press, and trying to wrestle down a $344 million
spending plan submitted by County Executive Michael Hein that
while only representing a .5 percent tax levy increase at present,
also includes enough stimulus and other one-time-only funds
to worry folks. And that’s WITH the laying off of 30 county
workers, leaving unfilled 22 vacated positions, and elimination
of 48 other positions included.
And up in Albany, the state legislature continued to wrestle
with the governor’s attempt to trim fat mid-budget season.
While down in Washington…
You get the picture.
school board voted unanimously for the grant proposal at Tuesday
night’s November 17 board meeting at the Middle/High School.
Horner said there was substantial federal money allocated for
energy efficient projects, with schools included in the mix.
He noticed that schools have not been as aggressive in seeking
funds as other municipalities. After a tour of the roof, Horner
and Hurwitz believe Woodstock elementary is a perfect building
for solar energy. It has ideal exposure to the sun, and a new
roof with a long life expectancy.
Horner added that he hopes that this could lead to other alternative
energy projects in the district. They are currently seeking
a federal grant for about $350,000. If a full grant is not awarded,
then they would need to scale back the project or not take the
Hurwitz recently designed the Town Hall in Esopus with Horner
installing large-scale ground photovoltaic solar panels. Horner
also secured a grant to install photovoltaic panels on the roof
of Woodstock’s town hall. He was on Woodstock’s
environmental committee and in 2007 authored the town’s
School Board President Laurie Osmond explained that in October,
the district tried to seek a grant, only to discover that they
needed to pay for an engineer or architect to be a part of the
grant writing as required by State Education law. Horner described
the grant process as “complex, even onerous.”
“I’m grateful that this seems to be pulling together,”
Transportation director Dave Moraca presented a history of the
transportation budget as talks begin on future budget planning.
This presentation was mostly to bring interim Assistant Superintendent
for Business Don Gottlieb up to speed on the district’s
contract agreement. Moraca gave cost comparisons between the
single bus contractor and the district’s past use on multiple
In 2008/2009 there were 53 bus routes at a cost of $1,523,110.85
compared to 55 routes in 2005/2006 at $1,549,495.75. Outside
of the district, transportation for special education and BOCES
totaled 9 routes at a cost of $461,291.99, up from two routes
in 2005/2006 at $66,128.30.
Osmond wondered why this cost increased so much and requested
a breakdown between special education and BOCES.
Private and parochial schools are also up from $159.094.40 for
5 routes in 2005/2006 to $240,942.16 for 7 routes in 2008/2009.
State law requires that school districts must transport special
education students according to need. Private and parochial
schools also most have supplied transportation up to 15 miles
from the student’s home. The overall total of contract
transportation costs went from $1,774,718.45 to $2.262.655,00.
Moraca said he will soon be presenting costs comparisons between
other school districts and Onteora.
Gottlieb presented school budget trends over the past few years
that showed strong interest rates and increased state aid, but
last year interest rates and state aid decreased and will continue
on that path. He also cautioned the board on spending too much
money from the fund balance.
“You may take care of today’s problem but then you
create a problem the following year which is what kind of happened
to you in 2008/2009 to 2009/2010,” Gottlieb said, explaining
that too much fund balance money was spent against the tax levy
in 2008/2009, therefore causing a steeper increase in the tax
levy the following year. “You have no control over the
interest earning, you have no control over state aid, no control
over Medicaid, the only thing that you as a board can control
is the tax levy and the appropriated fund balance.”
He added that salaries increased by nearly 40 percent and fringe
benefits increased 26.24 percent.
“As I look at the enrollment in the 2006/07 year, you
had over 1900 students,” Gottlieb said. “This year
you started out with less than 1700, so you are experiencing
a decline in enrollment.”
He said he has noticed a decline in many school districts throughout
the northern part of New York State, speculating that second
homeowners are partly to blame for the decline.
“Right,” said Tom, the largest of the group, ruffling
himself as he turned to the others, his wattle shaking in the
chill night air. “First I want to thank you all for coming.
With your assistance tonight will be the night that all my long
planning comes to fruition.”
“What planning?” one of the gathered asked.
“I’m getting to that,” said Tom, anxiously
pacing the near-frozen earth. He couldn’t help it and
pecked the ground for a second, but caught himself almost immediately
and straightened up, a little embarrassed by his instinctual
“I’ve asked you here tonight to be a part of what
I am calling ‘G–HOD’.”
“Did you say jihad?” another asked, a hint of nervousness
in his voice.
“No, I said ‘G–HOD’, G-H-O-D,”
Tom said, spelling it out as the others moved toward him, listening.
“Which stands for ‘Gobblers! Humanicide Or Death!’
For too long our brethren have been kept in the bondage of humans,
fattened for their feasting, and I will no longer sit idly,
allowing this injustice to go on. The time has come for us to
take a stand, to fight back!”
“Dude,” said Jarvis, an older turkey who sounded
strangely like a laid back version of Dennis Hopper’s
character in “Apocalypse Now”, “You’re
sounding crazy, man, you been eating fermented apples, or what?”
“No, but I haven’t been idle either, my feathered
With a flourish of his wing, Tom stuck his head into a pile
of leaves and pulled out what looked to be a sort of fishing
vest, bulging at the seams, stuffed with something they could
not see. Wires poked out of the front making it seem strangely
ominous, and the group gasped in astonishment.
“ I have been secretly gathering fertilizer all year from
local farms, and with it, and a few other bits I found, I’ve
constructed a bomb. With your help I’ll storm this house
and detonate it, sending a message to all humans that the tyranny
they call Thanksgiving must end! G–HOD!!!”
At this he threw up his right wing, an air of crazed militancy
“Duuuude,” Jarvis said in a slow gobbled drawl,
“This is not cool man. I mean, c’mon, I know we’re
‘wild’ turkeys, but this is too much.”
“If you’re not with me,” Tom yelled, “then
you’re with the humans. A few must die so that the many
may live. Can you not see that? I am not the terrorist here,
it’s them. We must make our gobbles heard!”
“Dude, Tom, think about it,” Jarvis countered. “We’ve
just begun to get our respectability back. I mean look, our
numbers are, like, way up, man. We’re everywhere. ‘Turkey’
is hardly the insult it once was, and I hear there’s a
place named after us that might even make it into the EU, whatever
that is. This is big stuff, man. And now you want to turn us
into the bad guy? Not cool, man.”
As he said this, Jarvis puffed up his feathers, making himself
look bigger, and cautiously edged toward the wild-eyed Tom,
who had now donned the vest and was holding one of the wires
in his beak.
“Don’t come any closer or we’ll all get it.”
“Be cool, Tom. Just relax and hear me out,” Jarvis
cooed, his deep voice an elixir of calm, soothing all who listened.
Not wanting to spook this obviously disgruntled bird he gently
reached out, extending a wing in a gesture of peace.
“You know, Tom, everything moves in cycles, change being
the only constant we can rely on,” Jarvis said, having
spent the previous week pecking around the Zen Mountain Monastery
and feeling especially at one with his existence. “We
may be hunted today, our domestic cousins raised on farms for
the human’s table, but our time is coming, I can feel
it. Humans were hunted too, once, but they got their act together,
and so will we. But for tonight let us be thankful we have each
other, and the great blessings of this beautiful world”
“But what about ‘G–HOD’? I’ve
put so much thought into it, it sounded so clever?” Tom
“Don’t worry, man, let it go for now,” Jarvis
answered. “Be thankful you are free and wild, alive in
these deep mountains where our kind have scratched a decent
living for thousands of years.”
“I guess you’re right,” said Tom, a little
crestfallen. The wire dropped from his beak and he hung his
head. “It probably wouldn’t have worked anyway,
I mean, I am a turkey, what do I know of making bombs?”
“I am right,” said Jarvis, putting his wing around
Tom. “Now let’s go get some grubs. It is, after
all, Thanksgiving and I’m feeling really peckish.”
Inside the house the humans gathered ‘round a richly laid
Thanksgiving table, sharing in the bounty of the land, unaware
of the danger so narrowly averted just beyond the porch light,
in a small clearing in the woods, where a feather-brained idea
was traded for reason. Yet as the turkeys disappeared into the
woods, none saw the slight gleam in the eye of one, a lurking
thought of a possible future that might, perhaps, redefine what
was once called a ‘turkey shoot’.
Jar Of Olives...
All Good Stuff
One of the benefits of teaching locally is being able to watch
students who were awkward teenagers grow into capable adults.
I proudly read honor rolls and Dean’s Lists to follow
students’ progress. Liz Johnson, who is studying English,
made Dean’s List at SUNY, New Paltz. No surprises there!
She was a memorable Anglophile and is destined to become famous
as a writer. I hope she goes into teaching to inspire others.
Another student I am proud of is Keith Davis. He and his wife
Tanya decided to host a Thanksgiving Dinner for seniors, families
in need, or anyone who would like to gather together in fellowship
to enjoy a free, full dinner of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes,
green beans, cranberry sauce, roll and dessert. Keith, like
his mom Cookie, is an outstanding chef, so join this gathering
at the DuBois Hall at the Reservoir United Methodist Church,
Route 28, in Shokan on November 25, Wednesday, from 4- 6:00
p.m. Please RSVP at 845-657-6536. If you are homebound, he will
deliver this sumptuous feast.
We sometimes get so involved in the pumpkin pie and cranberry
sauce aspect of the holiday that we forget the origins of our
Thanksgiving. A way to remember our American roots of this holiday
would be to attend the Native American Ceremony to be offered
for Thanksgiving on Tuesday, November 24 at 7 p.m. at the Reservoir
United Methodist Church in Shokan. Reverend Nickolas Miles,
who is keeper of the ceremonial drum, will lead those gathered
in the Green Corn Ceremony. The men of the Cloudbreaker Society
and the women of the Redfeather Singers will share Native American
traditions and songs. There will also be a Smudging Ceremony.
Thanksgiving is, hands down, my favorite holiday. It is a time
to gather friends and family, overeat and remember how fortunate,
even in these tough times, we are. I am always reminded as I
hold my belly and say, “I’m stuffed” that
my whole life is “stuffed.” We live in a land of
plenty. Many of us have much more than we need, and rather than
be “hoarders of stuff’ we might want to share our
bounty with others. Be sure to share some of our abundance by
donating to the Olivebridge Food Pantry.
One of the things I am grateful for this season is the end of
campaigning for elections. I would like to propose that for
the next election we ban all road signs. I know the purpose
is to establish name recognition; however, when over a dozen
cock-eyed signs congregate in blues and reds, they just appear
as litter, not literature. I would also like to limit the campaigning
to two weeks with a televised public debate moderated by the
League of Women Voters. When friends compete with friends for
a public office, the vote should be based solely on merit and
service. Finger pointing should be replaced by hand shaking.
Sound bites need to be expanded to public discussions. Someone
remarked that there is “pain” in the word “campaign.”
I am thankful that the strain and pain of local competition
has a two-year rest. Right now, it’s time to forget the
political lingo and TALK TURKEY!
Mark your calendars:
The Town of Olive Tree Lighting will be held on Friday, December
4. Santa and his elf will be there with treats for children.
Breakfast with Santa, and his trusty elf, will be held on Saturday,
December 5 at the Boiceville Inn.
The Olive Free Library will hold its holiday sale on Saturday,