Follow Up on the
In an effort to inform the community of budget concerns so
discussions at school board meetings will be more comprehensible,
Rowe offered a summary of issues he expects will be significant
in the decision-making process.
State aid: At the top of the list is state aid, which traditionally
comes through with an annual increase to support state-mandated
special education programs and the heavy expense of capital
building projects. The current year‚s $12 billion state
budget deficit threatened to produce a cut in state aid, but
citizens statewide rallied and provoked the legislature to
award a small increase instead. Next year‚s projected
$6 billion deficit probably will not bring a decrease, but
a significant increase, if any, is unlikely.
Adding to the uncertainty is litigation that has caused the
courts to order a change in the state aid formula. Due to
a court case alleging that New York City children have been
shortchanged in the funding area, state legislators are struggling
to come up with a formula that produces equity across the
state. An effort is being made to avoid invoking the "Robin
Hood principle" of taking from the rest of the state
to give to the city, but the effects at this point are unknowable.
Enrollment: Rowe's second issue is the continuing decline
in enrollment, which was addressed last year by the consolidation
of the Woodstock and West Hurley Elementary Schools. This
year, the board will most likely revisit the controversial
question of whether to save money by closing the West Hurley
school. Rowe said,"Having fewer kids affects the volume
of programming you offer. We also have to change the distribution
of enrollment. Last year we tightened up and eliminated the
need for 23 percent of the faculty because we increased class
sizes, from an average of 12 or 13 to around 20." Besides
merging the two schools, Rowe reorganized classes at the other
elementary schools, the middle school, and the high school.
Retirement fund: There are some budget increases over which
the district has no control, particularly the contribution
to the employee and teacher retirement systems, which is dependent
on stock market investment. "We are subject to decisions
made in other agencies and at the state level, as well as
the impact of inflation," Rowe said. "There's also
the lagging performance in the stock market, although that
has picked up significantly from last year." The district's
contribution to the non-teaching employee retirement fund
has gone up from 1.4 percent of total salaries last year to
4.9 percent this year, and is expected to leap to 14.55 percent
for 2004-2005. The teacher retirement system is now at .36
percent and will rise to 2.52 percent, said business administrator
Chuck Snyder, who observed, "Although the percentage
for teachers is smaller, the volume of money is much greater."
The district‚s total retirement contribution went from
$700,000 last year to $1.2 million this year.
Special education: Another area of little control is funding
for special education, which has been federally mandated since
the passage of legislation in the mid-seventies. The federal
government promised to fund the required programs at a level
of 40 percent but has only come through with 15 to 20 percent,
and the district must pick up the remaining costs. Parents
have veto power in decisions regarding services for children
designated as requiring special education and may demand a
higher level of service if they feel their child needs it.
"Our special education program serves a lot of kids,"
said Rowe. "Some people are concerned about the level
of identification of students certified as needing special
education. But it fits the philosophy of the district that
kids who need extra help will get it."
Fund balance: In the past, Rowe said, the district had the
ability to respond to fluctuations in budget conditions because
money put aside in fatter years was held as a reserve fund
balance at a level "well beyond the two percent limit
established by law. Seventy-five percent or more of school
districts in the state do it. In August 2000, the board that
was then sitting stripped $2.75 million from the budget to
reduce taxes. We now have a fund balance of under $1 million.
This takes away our flexibility. In one quick decision, the
fund balance was turned back in taxes, and the major of people
probably didn‚t even know it."
Large-parcel legislation: Taxes will probably go up in the
Town of Olive this year and down slightly in other towns,
especially if the school board is in a position to carry out
its promise to invoke the large-parcel legislation that will
separate the Ashokan Reservoir from Olive's tax rolls and
redistribute taxes among the townships. The Town of Olive
is trying to reach an agreement with the Office of Real Property
Services on the value of the reservoir, a step which would
prevent the application of the legislation. However, the resultant
revaluation of all properties of Olive would still raise their
contribution to the district‚s revenues, albeit in a
less drastic shift.
Contingency budget cap: If the voters should defeat the proposed
budget twice, the district is forced to go to a contingency
budget, with the spending increase limited to a percentage
determined by the Consumer Price Index (CPI). "We were
fortunate in passing a budget last year by a 60 percent margin,"
said Rowe, but the specter of a contingency budget is a daunting
one. The CPI was 2.8 percent last year and is expected to
be under two percent this year. The budget-crafting process
is done with an eye to making sure educational programs will
not have to be cut if the budget should be defeated. Last
year, Rowe attempted to create a budget that was barely higher
than the contingency level, but the board decided to ask the
voters for a tax increase that would allow the West Hurley
school to stay open.
Leon says he always liked film. During our discussion he speaks
very highly of the movie, On The Waterfront, about a guy who
wants to be a somebody. Shot in Hoboken, New Jersey, "It's
about the racket, It‚s on the waterfront and he‚s
in the middle of it. The character is Terry Malloy. It‚s
got heavy, heavy, heavy political implications. It was made
when there were witch hunts in this country looking for communists."
The writer of the film, Bud Schulberg wrote a book on boxing
called The Harder They Fall about that period.
Leon describes how his family influenced him into enjoying
the sport and lifestyle of boxing.
" My brother boxed in the navy," he says. "My
father used to like to watch the Friday night fights and I
watched and I was always drawn, as athletes, more to boxers
than to football players or baseball players."
Gast describes how generous and more accessible boxers are
than other athletes, specifically Ali. He saw Cassius Clay
fight Doug Jones, and Frazier (the first, second and third
" I was always a fan of, first, his incredible athletic
ability and then his politics also," Leon says of Ali.
"There were times when he was really serious, but most
of the time he would at some point wink. One writer said of
him, "In your face with a wink in his eye.'"
The last time Leon Gast saw Ali was just over a month ago
in Germany. Ali is speaking less and less but seems to be
in fine physical shape. Although he couldn't possibly be the
same as he was when he beat Foreman, I imagine, from what
Leon tells me, that Ali us still very charismatic.
When We Were Kings, Gast's Oscar-winning film,
has many beautiful details. One of my favorites is that of
Miriam Makeba, a performer at a music festival that ran for
the three days before the fight. Although the fight got postponed
due to Foreman getting cut, the festival went on. During that
weekend, Leon and his crew shot Miriam on a set for forty-five
minutes, just as they filmed James Brown and BB King.
Miriam Makeba was at the festival with her husband, Stokely
Carmichael, the guy in the 1960s who started the Black Panther
" There was always something about that look that she
gives in the close-up, it's always spooky," says Gast,
He adds that Miriam Makeba was like a good luck charm for
Ali. She peeks out through the shadow of contrasting light
and dark. A devil in heaven, a savior in hell.
I am very grateful that I had the opportunity to meet with
such a wonderful man who was so compassionate, wondrous, and
down to earth. He leads an elegant lifestyle, here in the
Catskills, with a getaway abode in the mountains and a place
in the city, not to mention a wonderful wife with a passion
He did not want to talk about a townwide reassessment as a
means out of the current difficulties, and refused to acknowledge
any fairness to the general complaints about equity that promoted
the legislation in the first place.
"It will come up in the Spring, but no one will be moving
on any of this until next summer," Leifeld said. "That's
not all that much time, though, given we'll be using lawyers'
Other big news over the last year included the completion
of construction at the Bennett School, increasing tensions
with the City over its closure of Monument Road, locally known
as the "Lemon Squeeze," and a recent election that
saw town Democrats not only cement their holdings, but actually
sweep the polls. The only other big news that came anywhere
near as close in terms of gaining reader's interest was the
brief surfacing of tensions between town old-timers and newcomers.
And, of course, the appearance of this paper in your mail
boxes every two weeks.
Talking ‘Bout Mister Right
"What am I gonna call you?" She asks us both.
I go into full alert; the mean, stupid people fought about
this all the time, and except for the few days when they
called me Brainless (can you believe those two?), they could
Her house is huge, way bigger than the mean people's. There
I slept on an old blanket that had some other dog's hair
on it; here I have my thick bed right in front of the heater,
and when She decides that it needs more padding, She takes
a sheet right off Her bed and folds it on top. It still
smells of Her! Then She lays down beside me, the length
of Her body along mine. "You are such a good boy,"
She says, rubbing my stomach. "Who's the handsomest
dog I've ever seen, huh? Who's gonna love you so much?"
The mean people woke at the crack of dawn, threw me out
to do my business, then locked me in the basement all day
long. She wakes up late, comes padding down the hall in
Her pajamas and scratches my ears til I want to go out.
I tromp in the field, and when I come back in She gives
me food and water, and sits on the floor while I eat. "Never
bite kids who take your food," She says, snatching
the bowl away. Like I don't know this already. She goes
through the Stop, Sit, Lay Down drill, tossing little cookies
into the air for me when I do what She asks. Most of the
time I pretend to misread the cues so She'll keep up the
Afterwards we play catch until we both ache, and then we
go into Her office, where She lets me sleep under Her desk
while She works on the computer. Her bare feet rest on my
belly, and when I wake I lick Her red toes until She squeals
with delight. Then She takes me outside and runs around
the field with me, whooping and hollering till Her face
is the color of Her toes.
I am allowed in every room of the house, except Her bedroom.
When I walk up the hall and peer in, She holds Her arm straight
out and says, "No, boy, you stay out." I don't
really mind, but I am curious, so on the rare occasions
that She leaves me alone I run right in there, smell all
the carpets, sniff around Her pillow, and leave. It isn't
that special after all.
At night She dances around in Her panties. "Where do
broken hearts go?" She wails plaintively. I dance with
her, jumping around on my back legs until She starts howling
and I join in, and then She collapses on the floor with
me and holds me until I fall asleep.
It's love, all right. So you can imagine my shock when Harry
shows up one night, and he's allowed to go into the bedroom
with Her. Before they go, I hear Her name for the first
"He's huge," Harry says every time he sees me,
backing away. He does not say 'huge' as a compliment. "You
know, Dobermans often turn on their owners," he tells
Julia. I wait till she's out of sight before I show him
my teeth. He runs screaming from the room.
For the next few days, Julia gives me the hairy eyeball.
She cooks up some bones and holds them for me while I gnaw
them. "You would never bite Harry, would you?"
she asks. I act my most adorable, and cuddly.
When Harry comes over, he drops his coat on the floor by
the front door. Even I know better--- Julia likes things
neat and clean. Before she goes to sleep, she rounds up
all my balls and bones and toys, and puts them into a basket
by my bed. When I want to make her laugh I take them out,
one-by-one, and spread them around the room. But Harry couldn't
care less about our routine.
We try out King, Buster and Cookie, but none of the names
Harry turns out to be Mister Right, all right--- Mister
always freaking right. Although he's never had a dog of
his own, he is absolutely sure that Julia is doing everything
wrong. "You’ll spoil him," he tells Julia,
as if I'm a honeydew.
He wants me to sit in the heel position for three or four
hours at a clip, wants me to go in and out on command, wants
me to eat without dropping a nugget. Mostly, though, he
wants me to leave Julia alone, for crying out loud.
But I've got Harry beat 5-to-1 in the precious department.
I'm sure Harry is who he says he is, but still, I have to
sniff his butt. This drives him nuts. Julia, too. She snaps
my snout, and gives me her 'mad' look. "He never does
that to anyone else," she tells Harry. "I think
he really likes you." I am disgusted with her for even
thinking this, but Harry knows better. He tries to avoid
me, but I make it a point to smell every inch of him. When
Julia's in the kitchen cooking, I lift my back leg, just
a few inches off the ground, and Harry jumps up. "God,
Julia, your dog almost peed on me," he whines. But
when she comes to look, there's not a drop to be seen. She
pats Harry's arm and runs her hand through my fur. She's
not sure which one of us to believe.
Julia and I learn a new trick. She sings: Dah-da-da-da-da-da/
dah-da-da-da-da-da/ dada-da-da-da-da-da!, and holds a hula
hoop about three feet off the ground. I sail back and forth
through the hoop, trying not to let my legs even touch it.
We do this trick for hours, but Harry is not impressed.
"Let's go to bed," he says. On the way down the
hall, I hear him say to Julia, "Maybe you should name
I search out his wallet and hide it under the couch.
I'm not saying Harry started the fire, but he was the last
one in the kitchen, so we'll never be sure. Which is perfect.
I hate to save him, but Julia has moved to the inside part
of the bed, and it's Harry's hand I have to push with my
snout to wake them. My immediate thought is to get Julia
out the back door, and leave Harry to use his brains. Which
means he'll wind up looking like a burnt bagel. But of course
Harry shoots right up, smells the smoke, screams, and runs
out the back door. Naked.
Julia sails right over me and races to the kitchen, and
within seconds she has the fire extinguisher going. I hear
her yelling--- ‘Go outside, Big Boy’--- but
I would never leave her. She has that fire out in five minutes
Harry pretends he had rushed outside to do--- what, exactly?
Drag water in from the creek? His face is red for the next
month. "I swear, Julia, I wasn't running away,"
he says again and again. She isn't angry with him, exactly,
but I am getting more of her attention.
"Maybe I should call you Sparky," Julia says,
"because you're a great fireman." But the name
reminds us both of that awful smell, and she never calls
me Sparky again.
I pee on Harry's jacket. The putz left it on the floor again.
And really, who wears leather when it's so nice outside?
It dries, and Harry never notices. A few days later Julia
points out the spot and Harry looks at me suspiciously.
He sniffs at it but just can't tell.
We're getting a new kitchen, and Harry's paying everything
the insurance company won't. I hope he doesn't think that
makes him welcome for dinner.
Lots of different guys come to measure the kitchen, but
Julia can't make up her mind. Then Rick shows up one afternoon,
and the minute he's through the door, I know he's the one.
He smiles at me right off. "God, he's huge," he
says, meaning it the nice way. He scratches me and rubs
my ears. "What's his name?" he asks innocently,
but the silence that answers him is deafening--- this is
Julia's best friend, Caroline, gets a little puppy. "I'm
naming her Shadow," Caroline tells us, "because
she never leaves my side." I'm humiliated that this
ragged thing already has a name, but I like Shadow anyway.
I drag her around the driveway, dirt flying up all around
us, as if she's a veal cutlet and I'm breading her. She
lets me do this for hours. When she gets tired, she snuggles
next to me and licks my privates. I start looking forward
to her visits.
Rick spends the whole day in the kitchen, measuring and
cutting. He brings treats every day, which he hides in his
pockets and waits for me to sniff out. He loves the hula
hoop trick, and has Julia and I perform it for him every
afternoon, while he sips his coffee.
Julia and I go on a trip, without Harry, to see her family.
"Don't worry," she tells me. "They'll figure
out a good name for you." Their house is crazy. Almost
nobody bothers to get dressed--- they just wear pajamas
all day long. They sit around talking from morning til dark.
About food. "What should we have for lunch?" they
ask as breakfast is being served. Before the lunch dishes
are cleared, they're cooking dinner. Bits of food are forever
falling on the floor. Actually, I love it here.
Julia's little nephew runs around saying, "Hey, let's
name him Snoopy!" and they burst into hysterics. As
if I'd ever allow that. They're nice--- but they're partial
to names like Snookums, Tweedy-Bird, Sweetie-Cakes. Don't
ask. We come home the same way we left--- pining for a name.
Rick likes to run in the field with us. We find out when
he shows up early one day and catches us out there racing
each other from end-to-end. He's also great with tennis
balls and teaches me to juggle. He buys a pack that he wears
around his waist, and fills it with doggie treats and only
says "Good boy!", never, "Hey, dummy,"
like Harry does.
The kitchen is finished. Then, right when Rick is packing
up his tools, Julia decides that her office could use some
sprucing up. Rick is unpacked in two seconds.
Julia opens the door and the Devil is standing there with
a pumpkin in his hand! "Trick or treat," he says,
but I'm not fooled. The growl that starts in my throat startles
all three of us, but I only know I've made a big mistake
when the devil cries, "Mommy, this dog is mean!"
He's already running away.
Julia is furious. "Are you crazy?" she shrieks.
"Scaring a little kid--- what's wrong with you?"
I've never seen her like this. I run outside, skirt the
woods, and settle myself into the far side of the field,
where I can just watch the house. A few times during the
night I hear Julia whistling for me, but she's half-hearted
at best. It's good that she hasn't named me; it would just
make it that much harder to lose her.
I stay away for three long nights, but eventually I break
down when I hear Julia crying. When I scratch on the door
she's there in a heartbeat, and she no longer seems mad.
"Thank God you're back," she says over and over,
her tears settling on my fur like snow on a frozen lake.
A few weeks later Julia cooks a huge Thanksgiving meal,
and lots of friends come over. As soon as we all get settled
in the dining room Julia raises her glass and says, "I
want to say that I'm so thankful for my good friends, my
sweet dog, and all the wonderful things that have happened
to me this year." As if we care, Harry gets up and
tells us what he's thankful for--- a great ski season, his
promotion at work, those last ten pounds he finally managed
to lose. The idiot even snaps the waistband of his pants!
Everyone is speechless. He does not mention Julia, or me,
and while I'm looking around for his socks, I see Rick raising
his glass. "I'm just so thankful that I got to meet
Julia..." he says. Everyone laughs, although a little
awkwardly. Then Rick looks over at me. "And I'm really
so happy that you came home, boy."
It's like a flash of electricity, and it goes through me
and Julia simultaneously. "Homeboy," she says,
rolling the word around on her tongue. I'm so excited I
could jump out of my skin. Rick starts clapping, Caroline
starts hooting with laughter, and Shadow starts dancing
around my head as if this is a Mexican Hat dance.
Harry, of course, is clueless.
The three of us are laying on the floor, me between them.
Their fingers are laced across my belly, and they scratch
me unconsciously. "I love you," Julia says. We
both raise our heads to see which one of us she's talking
to, but it's hard to tell.
Julia holds up a sprig of mistletoe, and bends her head
down to mine. "Merry Christmas, Homeboy," she
says, and breathes her sweet breath right into my nose.
Then Rick kisses me, too, and tells me what a fine, fine
dog I've become. I'm so happy that it takes me a few minutes
to realize that they have forgotten about me, and are using
me as a pillow for their own kisses.
Humans, they're such crazy animals, huh? I lick at both
their heads and drift off to sleep.
SHARP, the Shandaken Area Revitalization Project, founded
in the late 1970’s and incorporated in 1982, is a not-for-profit
entity that administers Federal and other grant money on behalf
of Shandaken, Olive and occasionally Woodstock.
“Of course I never said what (Gardner) accused me of saying,”
said Hoyt last week. “They’ve done this because I
publicly talked about the conflict-of-interest between Jane’s
role as executive director and disbursing Federal funds and her
being an elected public official. When somebody’s got to
come to you for a check for a new roof or a new furnace, do you
think they’re not going to remember who arranged for that
check? That’s why for anybody to run against Jane Todd is
political suicide in Shandaken. This is just common sense. My
concern is that people DO understand this, and that it reflects
very badly on SHARP. So if I point out this conflict of interest,
it’s because I want to protect the organization, which helps
a lot of people.”
The Gales, two of SHARP’s original three founders over 20
years ago, learned of the board’s intent to dismiss Hoyt
in a phone conversation with Gardner. Both immediately submitted
their resignations in protest. Hoyt later submitted hers at the
Dec 16 board meeting.
“I call it a conflict when you administrate town grants
and serve on the town board,” said Lonny Gale. “I’m
against a not-for-profit becoming political. That is not what
we set out for it to be, and that’s what they’re turning
it into. We’re lifelong Republicans but this is too much.
I think SHARP has become a political pawn.”
Todd, recently re-elected to the Town Board, draws an annual salary
from SHARP in addition to her town board salary. Her assistant
at SHARP is Joan Munster, wife of newly elected town board member
Joe Munster who succeeded Jane’s husband Ward Todd, as Shandaken
GOP party chairman. Ward Todd, also formerly chaired the Ulster
County Legislature, now serves as the president of the county
Chamber of Commerce.
SHARP’s board has long been split over conflict-of-interest
issues surrounding its executive director, as detailed in Hoyt’s
published letter, which contained no remarks critical of SHARP
at all, but did raise two other possible conflict-of-interest
issues pertaining to Todd. One was her purchase of land adjacent
to the proposed Belleayre Resort, and the other her failure to
notify the town it had been offered Pine Hill’s water system
free-of-charge, enabling developer Dean Gitter to purchase and
later divert some of it for the resort in 2000. Todd at the time
had been in charge of acquiring the system on behalf of the town.
“I’ve served this community for over fifty years,
and I’m certainly convinced there are conflicts here”
said Hoyt. ”That’s just my opinion, but people know
that I tell the truth. It’s not my reputation that’s
in question over this whole thing, “ she said. “It’s
SHARP’s. I don’t know who they think they’re
Called for comment regarding any possible conflict of interest
between her two posts, Todd said she thought the issue “had
been put to bed forever.”
“I went to the US Office of Special Council and got a determination
that I am not prohibited from running for or holding public office,”
Todd also said, “I would like to thank Lonnie and Peggy
and Edna for their many years of service on the SHARP board. For
that I am grateful.”