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"The money will
be there when it's needed," said Glenn Decker, Commissioner
of Social Services for Ulster County. "It is such a politically
sensitive program that meets people's needs where they live.
I donÕt believe we'll have to close the program. In the past
we ran out of money and used county money until the federal
money came through." Decker did not have specific figures
by township, but said that for Ulster County as a whole last
year 5,395 applications were processed and $2,009,575 was spent.
Christine Noble, the coordinator of the HEAP program for the
Ulster County Office of Aging, said that seniors should stay
calm. "Don't panic, but apply soon if you haven't already.
If you've already sent in your application and your income is
within the guidelines, the chances are it's approved. If you
havenÕt gotten an approval letter yet, it's because the data
wasn't all entered yet."
Last week stories
ran in national newspapers about cuts to the program if the
current Bush administration budget is approved as it stands.
After its winter recess, Congress will come up with a final
budget, and several legislators have already vowed to fight
the proposed reduction . Last year, the program had $212 million
in funding, and the current budget allocates just $174. According
to a report issued by U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, $38 million
in funding would be eliminated from the New York's program,
effecting 80,000 low-income people. Of those, 3,800 are Hudson
Valley residents, including 523 households in Ulster County,
351 in Dutchess, 241 in Greene and 226 in Columbia. To be eligible
for HEAP, your income level must be less than the equivalent
of a $35,000 four-member family household. The report stated
that 532 Ulster County residents would be cut off if the current
budget goes through. But Decker said he doesnÕt know how Schumer's
office came up with that number, and said his office was not
contacted by anyone from the senator's.
Noble says that the
majority of seniors on HEAP depend completely on it for heat.
"It was intended to supplement their heat, but a lot of
them live on HEAP alone. They donÕt have the money to do it
otherwise. Medical expenses eat up a lot of seniors' money.
I have a lot of seniors who are widows, but when a spouse passes
on, the same home is being run with one social security check,
and the pension may be lost. So therefore they are trying to
run the same home with a lot less money."
TAXES from page 1
of a different plan at the last minute led a number of Democrats
in opposition to request that the public hearing date, set for
this Thursday, December 19, at 7 PM, to be postponed. All eight
Democrats on the Legislature voted against the budget proposal,
as did legislators Glenn Noonan, Joan Every, Fawn Tantillo,
and William Calabrese, all Republicans. The redistricting plan
passed on strict party lines, 24-8.
Detractors of the
budget, which will increase the overall county tax levy by 19.69
percent next year to $38.9 million, say county lawmakers did
not do enough to cut costs, instead relying on budget maneuvering
to minimize the tax levy. "Budget gimmicks, like using
more money from the fund balance and overstating sales tax revenues
are examples of Ôvoodoo economicsÕ which will very likely come
back to haunt us at the end of this budget year," said
Legislator Alan Lomita of Rosendale. Lomita was referring to
budget amendments, including upping sales tax projections for
next year by $531,000 and taking $500,000 more from the unreserved
fund balance for next year's spending.
say unfunded state mandates have pushed local spending up, and
the property tax levy will not even cover the county's share
of Medicaid spending next year. "In order to make more
cuts, you either lay off people, or you cut programs, thereÕs
no two ways about it," said Majority Leader Richard Gerentine
of Marlboro. The Tuesday night session began nearly an hour
late after members of the GOP majority stayed behind closed
doors in caucus long past the meeting's scheduled 7 p.m. start
were made by Democrats to delay the vote or hearing, all of
which were defeated 24-8 along party lines. The public hearing
on this amended plan was set for Thursday, Dec. 19, at 6:15
p.m., at the Ulster County Office Building on Fair Street in
Kingston. "I really think this serves the interests of
the people," said county legislative chairman Ward Todd,
who selected the five-member special committee that came up
with the final plan, and sits as a member on it. He
said it mostly keeps town boundaries and cities wholly within
the boundaries of a single legislative district which, he said,
is not possible with the single member districts endorsed by
speakers at public meetings.
The plan agreed
upon will set up nine legislative districts, with membership
ranging from one legislator representing most of Woodstock to
five legislators in newly created districts at the southern
and northwest boundaries of the county. Oddly enough, most of
Woodstock would end up in what essentially would be a single-member
district, with six-sevenths of the town comprising all of District
4, with one legislator. Shandaken, which, had it stood on its
own, would have denied the hometown Todd a seat in the last
election, would be lumped with Olive, Hurley, the town of Kingston
and Hardenburg into District 2, electing three legislatorsÉ
as we do now.
that was used for the 2001 election has seven multi-member districts
of varying sizes, which led State Supreme Court Justice Vincent
Bradley to declare it unconstitutional, while expressing concern
about the one-man, one-vote principle, Democrats and at least
one nonaligned voter who has closely followed the process have
said they will likely challenge the new plan in court.
that public discussion at committee showed 87 percent of those
who spoke favoring single-member districts. Many said, at those
meetings, that the huge multi-member districts approved under
the plan selected by the committee ignored the will of the voters
and created many of the same problems of sprawling districts
and huge diverse constituency that the current unconstitutional
arrangements suffer from. It was also pointed out that single
member districts, where one legislator represents some 5,300
voters within a compact geographic boundary, usually within
a single municipality, would make for better representation.
Todd has said that
single member districts were too confusing for voters, who he
said, would have trouble figuring out which district they belonged
in and who their representative is. He also noted that the special
committee was not charged with creating a plan, but only with
choosing a plan from those submitted and dismissed a single-member
plan submitted by the Democrats as using faulty demographic
data. He said the plan used data that was originally put out
by the Census Bureau and placed a state correctional facility
from southern Ulster County up in Saugerties, apparently skewing
district lines. Though the census data was later corrected,
the Democrats apparently never used the revised data.