on the News
It Time For A Reval?
What would this mean for the Town of Shandaken, and what role has Olive's
actions played in recent statements by Supervisor Bob Cross, Jr. that
he would be inviting in county Real Property Services Director Dorothy
Martin to explain what would be involved should the town undertake a
reval, including possible benefits?
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.
said in recent interviews that the meetings 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, Leifeld and attorneys
would then go before the school board and county to seek a reversal
on decisions, and tablings, regarding the Large Parcel issue.
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.
added that he'd started hearing that the Town of Woodstock, and especially
its two District Two County Legislators, Brian Shapiro and Michael Stock,
were looking to "still stick it to us" over the matter, intent
on gaining the small savings for their district's taxpayers. Neither
was available for comment at press time for this story.
to Cross, plans to get Martin to town were still tentative. "I
think we should get her up here to a town board meeting and tell people
what would happen if we didn't do a reval," he said in a recent
interview, adding that he was approaching the matter cautiously, but
seemed inclined to go with the idea because of the potential windfalls
in state aid that could result. Cross said he hopes to see Martin at
an upcoming town board meeting.
for her part, said Tuesday that Shandaken assessor Rosalie Boland had
contacted her recently and informally invited her to come to Shandaken.
"I think it was for informational purposes," Martin said,
adding her office is not pressuring Shandaken into a reval in any way.
In fact, Martin said, "There is nothing mandatory about doing revals
on either the county or the state levels. There's a town in Westchester
county that hasn't done one since the late 1800's."
yet a quick search of the state ORPS website found that numerous incentives
have been installed into state aid equations to push for as frequent
revaluations of municipalities as possible.
300 municipalities across New York are now enjoying the benefits of
consistent market value assessments. Aside from State Aid totaling more
than $5 million each year, the benefits are many," reads the site.
"While State law does authorize municipalities to assess at market
value or some uniform percentage thereof, the State Aid program requires
towns and cities to keep their assessments at market value.
aid packages that would become available to Shandaken should it revalue
would include: Triennial Aid, available once every three years, that
would provide a payment of up to $5 a parcel in aid to an assessing
unit that conducts a reassessment which includes reinspection and reappraisal
of all parcels on the assessment roll. Annual Aid, which allows for
a payment of $5 per parcel annually for the assessing unit's first five
years in the program and $3 per parcel thereafter (Eligibility insists
on annual maintainence of 100 percent assessments at 100 percent
of market value and similar requirements, including a full six-year
plan for implimentation). Consolidation Incentive Aid, which give a
one-time payment of $7 per parcel if all property is assessed at a uniform
percentage and the town shifts to a single assessor format, and contracts
with the county for all assessment administration services.
to comment on Leifeld's moves toi make the Large Parcel reapportionment
a moot subject, Cross said on Tuesday that if he had his druthers, he
would have pushed it through before such an opportunity could have occured,
no matter the hurt on Olive. "I'm elected to represent the best
interests of Shandaken," he said, inferring that he blames his
Democratic predecessor for not having pushed the school board and county
legislature for immediate adoption of the reapportionment more enthusiastically.
for when Martin would come to town, Cross said he hadn't had time to
set that yet.
got a lot on my plate right now," he said, noting that he was considering
appointing a committee to look into revals at his next meeting, with
only two or three members representing the town board and local business
School Budget Time
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.
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 out.".
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.
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.
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.
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 $11,000.
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
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 night.
The agenda for the March 10 Planning Board meeting listed Al Higley
as the man applying, prompting planner Jerry Setchko to seek confirmation
of just who the applicant was. Higley, former owner of the Boiceville
Market, former county legislator, and recently re-activated in local
politics, insisted before the meeting that he personally had nothing
to do with the matter, except that he helped run the stand, and that
it was his son, Al Junior and his company, Hanford Farms, that were
submitting the request.
The application however, lists Michael Higley, Al Junior's brother,
as the sole applicant.
To further complicate matters, not a Higley was in sight at the March
meeting, leaving former planning board member Robert Kalb, who resigned
his position last month. To represent the applicant before the board.
Kalb did his best to clear things up, but was largely unsuccessful.
Acting Planning Board chair Beth Waterman, said the application remains
under consideration but the board cannot move forward, "Until
we actually have a Mr. Higley here to ask these questions to."
Confusing the matter was the fact that the roadside stand was operated
illegally on the property last summer and fall. Town Code enforcement
officer Mike Malloy, present at the March 10th session, said he issued
multiple violations against the stand last summer but lifted them
to allow the operator of the enterprise to come before the planning
board to seek the proper special use permit. Town code prevents planners
from considering any application on a property with a violation.
Also last summer a large shed was installed on the 1.26 acre property
illegally. The shed remains, and there is currently an application
before the zoning board of appeals for a variance for the shed.
Audience members laughed when Kalb announced that the shed has nothing
to do with the application before the planners. He added that he didn't
know what the shed would be used for, but that the only matter before
the planners was to consider a special permit for a roadside stand,
a ten by ten foot structure that would be placed elsewhere on the
More laughter erupted during talk of what planners believe is a requirement
that most of the produce sold at local farm stands be grown on land
owned by the operator of the stand. When Kalb said that it was grown
on Hanford Farms property "across the river," audience member
Maureen Millar said she could prove the produce is purchased elsewhere.
Other audience members said they visited the stand and were told the
When Kalb said the parcel had room for three parking spaces, former
planning board member Howard McGowan, seated in the audience, interrupted
and said there was not enough room for the parking on the land, which
also contains a house.
Discussion ensued about how several cars were parked along the shoulder
of Route 28 by visitors to the stand last year, with McGowan suggesting
that it presented a safety issue. In response Kalb said there were
several other roadside stands on the highway that have visitors parking
on the shoulder of the road.
Millar, a Mount Tremper resident, said the difference here was the
planning board was being asked to condone the parking by granting
a permit. Kalb said that if the board was going to impose all the
laws on this enterprise than they must impose the same laws on Roger
and Alyce's Fruit Stand, a long established fruit and vegetable stand
about a half mile east along the same highway.
Planners agreed to schedule a public hearing for April 14.
At the St. Patrick's Day Zoning Board of Appeals meeting, Al
Higley Sr., saying that he was there representing his son Mike, then
asked for a variance to allow the previously-questioned shed on the
property he is seeking site plan approval for. The shed is already
on the site, but illegally. The board determined that it will hold
a public hearing on April 21 on the application, provided that Higley
supply more detailed information about the property- and prove a hardship
that needs addressing.
Al Higley Sr. has meanwhile posted advertisements asking people to
come out and support his farm stand at the hearings, a first for such
public lobbying requests in the town.
In other business at the March 10 Planning Board meeting, planners
gave the green light for an automobile sales lot in Phoenicia. Applicant
Shahzad Shah owns and operates the Phoenicia Supermarket
and is also an authorized car dealer who sells cars on the internet.
Due to the concerns of the public, the planning board issued the permit
for only one year. In order for it to be renewed, Shah must come before
the board on an annual basis.
At the March 17 ZBA meeting, Town Police officer-in-charge Jim McGrath
submitted a request for a blanket use variance for the Phoenicia Plaza
property because it remains unclear what the land is zoned. The variance
request will be the subject of a public hearing on April 21.
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 literary periodical.
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
"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
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-
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
Both comment about what it's been like to learn to appreciate night
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
But that was then. And now, they're here. And planning on staying.
For further information on Kopp Rodriguez and Associates, or the always-invigorating
Victoria and rising art star Paloma, call (845) 688-5128 or visit