Follow Up on the
For The Reval
The so-called "Large Parcel tax code provision, Section
1316 of the state's Real Property Tax Law, allows school districts,
and county governments, to adopt annual resolutions that would
allow a district to eliminate disparities among all properties
if, and only if, the large property in question 1) constitutes
five percent or more of the total assessed value of a city
or town; 2) the full value of the property is at least five
million dollars, and 3) the percentage of difference between
the State equalization rate and the local apportionment equalization
rate for that property is at least five percent.
Leifeld said this week that the meeting with ORPS in Albany
was to get the percentage of difference between the town and
state to under five percent. As a result, he and the Olive
Town Board have started seeking bids for their town's first
municipal revaluation of assessments in 27 years. If the percentages
are brought down, the large parcel reapportioning of taxes
paid to the Onteora School District and Ulster County would
likely become moot.
And yet, by Leifeld's new reckoning, his town's share of both
taxes would still rise somewhere between 30 and 60 percent
over the coming year.
Leifeld added that everyone came away from the meeting, lawyers
included, confused by percentages, as well as the state's
refusal to give a final valuation for the reservoir.
"How'd it go in the end? I'm really not sure," the
supervisor asked himself. "They really confused us."
Leifeld said he and LaMonda had been checking with lawyers
to find out what's what before holding a town board meeting
on the subject in the coming weeks and then going to the school
board with new values and pleading for them not to hit Olive
with a new apportionment.
According to Leifeld, changes to Olive tax payers could be
as much as $143 per $1000 of assessed value, were a full reapportionment
enacted. Meanwhile, residents in the school district's other
two main towns, Shandaken and Woodstock, would see their tax
loads go down between $2 and $4 per $1000, representing savings
of an average few hundred dollars per property.
The supervisor estimated that Olive real estate has been going
up an average 15 percent a year since 2001. He's unsure how
that will end up effecting new tax distribution in light of
the reservoir's new value.
"We've got six weeks to get the numbers straight on this
and it's all a mess," Leifeld said. "It sure as
hell is frustrating, that's the only thing I can tell you
Speaking after lawyers for the town talked with officials
at ORPS on March 22, Leifeld added that although further indications
were given that the new $360 million assessment for the reservoir
was still holding, state officials were refusing to be definitive
"until higher administrators signed off on it."
He said he was unsure what that meant.
He added that the lawyers had been told that an apportionment
rate had to be approved, which he took to mean that a dedication
to revaluation would be required so that the new city apportionment,
which represents a 3 percent rate, would be matched by the
rest of the town, currently at 1.2 percent because of the
lengthof time it's been since the last reval.
"I just want to make sure we don't get the worst of all
worlds, and hit by the large parcel tax, a reval and rising
costs for everything else all at once," the crusty supervisor
croaked. "Hell, my taxes would go up $4,000- This all
feels like some mysterious force is at work. I just want to
get it all over with."
Interim assistant superintendent Jeff Hanna outlined the cuts
as well as the effects of a contingency budget, limited by
law to a 2.76 percent increase, or $41,413,106, with a 4.72
percent tax increase, which would result if the voters defeat
the budget proposal twice. For comparison purposes, business
administrator Chuck Snyder provided figures on a rollover
budget of $43,700,124, the cost of providing programs and
services at their current level, with the required increases
in retirement fund contributions, health insurance, and contracted
staff salaries. The rollover budget, with West Hurley intact,
would come to 8.43 percent over the current budget and bring
the tax levy into double digits.
The recommended six percent budget would require redistricting
of elementary schools to distribute students evenly among
the Woodstock, Bennett, and Phoenicia Elementary Schools,
equalizing class sizes to 19 to 21 throughout the district,
Rowe said. The closing of West Hurley would save a total of
$781,000, starting with $361,000 in operational costs, including
salaries for non-teaching staff and the principal. Another
$200,000 would be saved with the elimination of four teaching
positions due to the restructuring of classes, while the need
for less teaching time in the areas of art, gym, music, and
library would save $75,000. Fewer teachers and teaching assistants
in the area of special education would cut $145,000. Cuts
unrelated to West Hurley include reducing equipment acquisitions
districtwide from $250,000 to $200,000; reducing all building
budgets by five percent; eliminating three monitors in the
high school and middle school; and reducing the school lunch
program from five to three choices, without abandoning the
effort to improve nutrition.
The 4.3 percent budget alternative, to be presented if the
first proposal goes down at the polls, eliminates the same
items as the six percent budget, as well as cuts in academic
intervention, elementary summer school, afterschool programs,
the new nutritional menu lunch program, and districtwide field
trips. Rowe said the cuts in both budgets represented priorities
agreed upon by the administrative council, which includes
all school principals and central office administrators. Barbara
Boyce, director of Pupil Personnel Services, warned that the
4.3 percent budget "virtually eliminates prevention programs,
which can have repercussions of higher costs down the line
for mandated programs for kids at risk of failing or dropping
"The revenue side is, at best, a crap shoot," said
Rowe, decrying the difficulty in devising a budget when revenues
cannot be accurately predicted. "We are approaching the
twentieth consecutive year when the odds are the state budget
will be late. We're expected to meet our deadline, but they're
not expected to meet theirs." The governor's proposed
state budget gives Onteora a mere $12,000 raise over last
year's state aid figure of about $6.9 million. The legislature
may increase that number, but generally that decision is not
made until after the school districts' May 18 deadline for
the budget vote. Tax revenue estimates are based on last year's
tax rolls and equalization rates, which will not be finalized
for this year until July. Also included in the revenue is
a $1.5 million fund balance of money left over from last year's
budget and held in reserve for unexpected needs.
Trustee Kathy Hochman asked whether any alternatives had been
considered for the West Hurley building, and Rowe retorted
that no outside uses can be solicited until the board decides
whether to close the school. "Could we use the space
creatively for programs like Indie or ASPPE [the program for
teens with Asperger Syndrome]?" Hochman persisted, noting
that even BOCES programs are sometimes housed in schools that
are under regular operation. Rowe replied that BOCES has expressed
interest in using four to six classrooms next year, and there
is the possibility of private-sector businesses utilizing
the space, but emphasized that the decision to close must
be made before seeking a tenant. He added that he could not
justify spending over $600,000 on a building that houses only
116 students, as enrollments continue to decrease.
The board voted unanimously to include on the May ballot a
proposition to purchase a used school bus and several smaller
vehicles for student transportation at a total cost of $133,500.
In the closing Public Comment section of the meeting, West
Hurley parent Lori Kleine said, "I'm upset the choices
are close the school, close the school, or close the school."
She pointed out that the Woodstock Elementary School, although
larger than West Hurley, is more run down, with an electrical
system that cannot support many computers. She objected to
the pattern of the last few years which has put her children
in a different school each year and expressed concern that
the consolidation into three schools will leave no room to
grow. She also cited statistics from an article in the Middletown
Times Herald-Record on school districts in Orange, Sullivan,
and Ulster counties. According to the article, Onteora has
the highest dropout rate, at 19.4 percent, while Walkill has
10 percent, and Kingston has eight percent. Onteora spent
$15,000 per student in 2002-2003, and the area average is
At least two special school board meetings will be scheduled
to discuss the budget and solicit public opinion before the
April 19 deadline for budget adoption. The first special meeting
will take place at the high school on Monday, March 29, at
7:00 p.m. Budget information is expected to be posted shortly
on the district website, temporarily located at http://onteora.schoolwires.com/onteora/site/default.asp.
In other business, representatives of the county legislature
have agreed to meet with a few school board members in an
informal discussion of the county's Van Dale Road bridge refabrication
facility. The meeting had not yet been scheduled as of Monday
The couple now work out of home, a former hunting lodge near
Winne Road in Mt. Tremper, right on the Olive/Shandaken border,
with their 2 year old daughter, Victoria, helping out as best
she can. Paloma, who's at Phoenicia Elementary, is newly published
in the most recent issue of Prima Materia, the Hudson Valley's
Both Alma and James, who've become involved in a number of
local activities from the Panther Mountain Picking Circle
of bluegrass musicians to Afgrican Drumming classes at the
Methodist Church in Phoenicia (not to forget a growing number
of pro bono fundraising jobs for local non-profits), feel
they've somehow broken out of the boxes of corporate America
and are "beating the system" by creating a perfect
rural life for raising their kids in- and growing their business
and inner selves.
"It's sweet working at home," says Alma, raised
in New York's Puerto Rican community with a B.A. from Columbia
University and over 20 years of management experience for
not-for-profits and publications, including the Village Voice.
"We started realizing we could do this as our business
began shifting more and more to the computer and e-mails.
The transition ended up being pretty easy."
"We're a classic internet boom story in terms of moving
up here," James says. He grew up in rural North Dakota
and keeps the quizzical lilt of that cold terrain's accent.
Yet his background is filled with brand management and strategic
thinking work in high-end advertising settings that included
vice-president positions at Young & Rubicam and Grey Advertising,
handling such accounts as IBM and the United States Postal
Service. He served as a consultant to non-profit organizations
such as the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, the New York
Consortium for New Music, and WBGO, a jazz public radio station
in Newark, NJ. "There's a lot of similarities between
here and where I grow up. I feel back home."
Kopp and Rodriguez created their business with the future
of their children in mind. They wanted to spend more time
at home with them. So each morning they bring in a babysitter
for a half day as the couple works side by side on separate
computers, then split time with the baby the remainder of
the day. They often work late after both kids are in bed to
meet deadlines and stay ahead of their clients' needs.
Those clients, at present, include a number of New Jersey
not-for-profits including the Stevens Institute of Technology
in Hoboken, the Park Performing Arts Center in Union City
and a host of high schools, churches and educational groups,
several of which the company has helped found.
Upstate, the couple has been building up a clientele by doing
pro bono work and putting on workshops like a recent NYSERDA-based
event in Kingston that drew over 54 representatives from the
region's top not-for-profits.
So how did they find us? Internet research was a component,
but also the fact that Paloma joined a school ski club that
would come to Belleayre each winter. After whittling their
choices down to New Paltz, Woodstock and the Phoenicia/Olive
area, they chose that which was most woodsy- and friendly.
Moving up, they add, has not been without its hardships. To
entertain a fully Internet-based business, they had to cut
costs. Their house is not large, but it is more than adequate.
Overall, though, the experience has been enriching- and full
of surprises. They never anticipated the number of cultural
choices available to us up here. Or the close friendships
that can build rapidly. Or the general friendliness of close-knit
communities that can often seem stand-offish at first.
And how has it been working side by side, day in and day out?
"It's actually been wonderful to learn to communicate
on a business level with your spouse, to show respect and
see how the skills centrifuge out," says James, who handles
much of the strategizing part of the couple's business.
"The only bad thing, if you could call it that, is that
we end up talking about business all the time," adds
Rodriguez, the grantwriting and researching half of the duo.
"Everything gains continuity."
Both comment about what it's been like to learn to appreciate
night skies again.
James mentions how, when the anti-globalization riots took
place in Seattle in the late 1990s, he couldn't understand
them. But now, after 9/11 and his own move away from urban
life, away from the corporate world, he sees it merely as
part of a necessary paradigm shift.
Alma points out how hard it was to be in Jersey City, the
nearest full community to the World Trade Center, after 9/11.
She says it left everyone with "a hole in the heart,"
a tear in the city's streets.
But that was then. And now, they're here. And planning on
For further information on Kopp Rodriguez and Associates,
or the always-invigorating Victoria and rising art star Paloma,
call (845) 688-5128 or visit www.kopprodriguez.com.
A middle-school teacher with fifteen years of experience in the
district, Miller is directing his first plays after contributing
to many previous productions as a set-builder.
"He's a beloved teacher at the school," comments Donna
Bryan, who is
assisting in the direction, "appreciated as much for his
spontaneous elfin wit as he is for his literary sophistication."
Miller, who says he already feels rewarded by the abundance of
fun and enjoyment his troupe has displayed at rehearsals, chose
an adaptation of John Gay's classic "Beggar's Opera"
written by Charles Jefferies and Jerry Knight first performed
in 1991 at MacArthur High School in San Antonio, Texas and promises
some surprises in the staging.
The original play, which opened in 1728 and ran for a record 62
performances, presents a rude grouping of London street characters
staging a play by riffraff within the play. Thought to have contributed
to the writing of his friend Jonathan
Swift's immortal satire "Gulliver's Travels", Gay introduces
characters in the script like Suky Tawdry and Jenny Diver, whose
names are familiar to anyone who has heard the song "Mack
the Knife"- which itself springs from Kurt Weill's famous
musical "Three Penny Opera," a work inspired by Gay's
Leilani Stein, Greg Silver, Matt Brennan and Jackie Denise lead
the cast of over a dozen players in the "nightcap" of
this pair of one-act plays while Noah Telson, Quinn Ferris, Nick
Langling and Maeve Klersfield comprise the cast of Eugene Ionesco's
debut of absurdist satire, "The Bald Soprano."
A tongue-challenging lampoon of the British middle class, "Bald
Soprano" toys with the nature of language, reflecting its
Romanian author's existentialist response to the stilted, meaningless
repetitions of sentences he encountered while learning English
from language textbooks. His first play, the work founded the
"theater of the absurd" movement in 1950, to
which he would contribute over twenty plays before his death in
An odd but intriguing compliment to "The Beggars Opera,"
the farcical scenes of "The Bald Soprano" confine their
action to a contemporary living room in an English city.
Audiences at the performances are expected to provide their own