(letters from April 13, 2006)
Enough has been said about The Large Parcel Law to fill a
very large Garbage dumpster. Much of what has been printed
is just that, GARBAGE.
Recently it has been reported that Senator William Larkin,
one of the primary sponsors of the Large Parcel Bill, said
that reservoirs were not in the original bill when he sponsored
it. That is not true! You may ask, how do I know that? When
the language for the Large Parcel Law was drafted in a bill
form, Assessor Todd Wiley and I met with Senator Larkin in
his office to discuss the merits of the bill and ask for his
support. The language of the bill then and always has included
reservoirs. After all, why shouldn't they? New York City reservoirs
were single large properties that skewed the equalization
process so that fair tax apportionment was not possible. As
a matter of record, prior to the Large Parcel Law enactment,
city reservoir towns had enjoyed as much as a 50% erroneous
advantage in taxes over their neighbors.
I have recently read where certain members of the Watershed
Coalition are trying to have the word, "RESERVOIR,"
removed from the Large Parcel Bill. Those attempting to do
so state that the primary sponsor of the bill knew nothing
of the word reservoir in the original language. Someone is
telling a very large lie. Why not, it's a very large issue
about very large parcels. I believe the law will NOT change
because there are enough folks who believe in fair tax apportionment
and don't want to go back to business as usual.
One more thing: Since the Ulster County Legislature failed
to enact the Large Parcel Law for 2006 County Taxes, the non-reservoir
towns in the County picked up an estimated $1,200,000 in county
taxes. Do you still wonder why your county taxes were so high?
Curt Schoeberl, Assessor
Town of Shawangunk
On behalf of the 30+ bus drivers who just received word that
starting this summer the OCS board of education has granted
us the wonderful opportunity to begin collecting unemployment
insurance. I wish to say, thank you ever so much... You took
our jobs and raised our taxes, but I have been assured that
all this was done for good reason, of course no one has been
gracious enough to explain just what the reason is...
The generosity of the OCS Board of Ed. is truly boundless.
They have given the taxpayer a bonus this year. Not only will
the public lose the bus contractors and drivers who have been
a part of ' their lives for 2 and 3 generations, they will
be given the gift of paying 1/2 million dollars more for the
I am now in my 37th year driving school bus for the OCS district.
The children I drive today are in some cases the grandchildren
of the 60's generation who started with me in 1967. I have
served under 12 Superintendents of schools and 14 Business
Managers. Many of the people who prepare my taxes, draw my
blood, pack my groceries, repair my vehicles, work alongside
me -- rode my bus. My town supervisor and his wife -- and
15+ years of driving daily and late runs in the town of Olive
many of you -- were all at one time or another "my kids".
To think that I am the exception to the rule would be a mistake.
The Onteora roster of drivers is in itself a priceless history
of the district, a history that will, after June 30, 2006,
disappear. The OCS Board of Ed., by a vote of 6 to 1 in just
a matter of minutes wiped the slate clean and sent us all
to the "recycle bin".
This was done without public input. The cost factor could
suggest that the board might have preferred a lack of input.
In all fairness I must mention that there was one voice of
reason on the board. Rita Vanacore did request that the board
hold off voting until further study and public input could
take place. She was ignored by every member of the board;
to her credit, she stuck to her convictions and cast the only
NO vote. I know I speak for every bus driver and the uninvited
public when I express to Mrs. Vanacore our sincere appreciation
for her efforts.
The cost of transporting to and from school is slightly in
excess of one and one half million dollars annually. The winning
bid for next year's transportation to and from school is in
excess of 2 million dollars. In other word we are going to
pay 30% more for next year then we do now AND we will get
no more then we get now. Do you really feel that flushing
$2 million dollars down the drain is "taxpayer friendly"?
I am curious, since the total cost for next year has not as
yet been presented to us, what other taxpayer friendly surprises
are we in store for? I have the distinct feeling we are not
going to be "blessed" all at once....
I suggest that everyone do their best to attend the next round
of board meetings and decide for themselves just how well
we can all sleep at night. . . .
A Transportation Bid History/ Process
In the 1997/1998 and 2001/2002 school years, the Onteora Central
School District hired the Transportation Advisory Service
(TAS) to perform efficiency studies on the Onteora Transportation
Department and recommended the following: provide balance
of a district operated program with a contracted program,
establish a plan for fleet replacement, reduce the number
of contractors to one or two, and follow the bid specifications
provided by TAS.
In January of 2005, the Onteora Transportation Department
committed to the bid process during the 2005/2006 budget presentation.
Due to time constraints and the workload involved in preparation
for the bid specifications TAS recommended the bid process
be rescheduled for the fall of 2005/spring of 2006.
At a September 2005 Board of Education meeting, the Onteora
Board of Education adopted a resolution appointing TAS as
the consultant to assist in guiding the District through the
In October of 2005, TAS met with the District and Board of
Education representatives to review the bid process. During
the period of October 2005 through January 2006 the Transportation
Advisory Service developed the detailed bid specifications
and structure of the bid process. The bid specifications and
process were then forwarded to the Districts legal council
and insurance agent for review.
On January 19, 2006, a legal notice was published in the local
newspaper announcing Onteora’s intention to go through
a bid process for a three-year contract for our contracted
bus routes. At the same time our business office sent a letter
to eligible contractors, notifying them of the bid and letting
them know they could pickup the bid specs at the administrative
offices in Boiceville just in case they did not see the notice.
The pre-bid meeting on February 2, 2006 allowed the contractors
to ask any questions concerning the bid specs. The bids were
opened on February 13, 2006. Hoyt Transportation is the contractor
that won the bid.
Our present contracts are more than twenty years old and by
law we cannot just change the wording of the old contracts
to the same contractors adding what we would like without
going through a formal bid process. In addition, one of our
contractors was in the process of selling his business leaving
that contractor unknown. The new bid structure gives Onteora
the flexibility to combine routes with the present population
declining in the future as noted by the monthly enrollment
updates and the annual demographers reports we are given.
This is something we could not do with the old contracts.
The added safety control and compliance checks we will enforce
in the new contracts will ensure that the contractors comply
with all the NYS DMV Article 19A Laws, Regulations, and DOT
regulations. The bid specs require that the contractor submit
monthly paperwork to demonstrate their compliance. When the
contractor is not in compliance, a daily fine will be enforced
until compliance is met and a report written. None of these
details, controls, accountability, and flexibility is in any
of our current contracts nor could we legally just add them.
We cannot impose any additional specifications or alter the
current contracts without a formal bid.
A bid process is designed to provide a competitive bidding
atmosphere. The present bid was awarded with set prices for
three years. The contractors were requested to bid routes
at hourly rates versus a dollar amount for an each route.
Included in the bid specs was a current contract summary listing
all runs by their number. This allowed the local contractors
to look up the run description. It did however; require additional
work to prepare a more detailed bid. It was the responsibility
of the contractor to submit his bid by February 13, 2006.
At the end of the three years, the District has the option
of extending the contract to the contractor for a certain
amount based on what is called the CPI or the cost of living
increase, which is provided by the NYS Association of Pupil
Transportation. This is exactly what has been done in our
twenty-year-old contracts. If the district is not happy with
this process, they can proceed to bid the contracts again.
The increase presented in the Transportation Budget Presentation
on March 14, 2006 is $106,799.00. We are requesting additional
services from our contractor. Services like a Terminal Manager,
Safety Supervisor, Dispatcher, and monthly reporting of contractor
performance, student discipline matters, driver training programs,
driver discipline matters, driver hours, and all other items
related to the performance of the contractor.
The changes that are being made are also in line with the
Board of Education’s Resolution that was passed at the
February 14, 2006 Board of Education meeting to review the
efficiencies, internal controls, and compliance of State Laws
and Regulations in the Transportation Department.
Cindy O’Connor, Trustee
Onteora School District
I’d like to ask for your readers’ support in the
Onteora School Board election May 16, where I am seeking one
of two open seats. As a parent of two Phoenicia Elementary
students, I have been active in the school’s PTA, organizing
this year’s Halloween Parade, working on our Holiday
Craft Fair and Kool School (our afterschool program) and currently
serving as Phoenicia’s parent liaison to the School
Board’s Future of the District Commission.
Our School District is facing challenging issues, including
the impacts of declining enrollment, selection of a new superintendent,
and insuring educational excellence within our taxpayers’
ability to pay for it. I want to bring my energy and thoughtfulness
to these important issues and work to bring our school community
together in the face of them.
Recently, I sold my wholesale jewelry company and currently
I am the business manager for this publication, The Phoenicia
Times and The Olive Press, which my husband, Brian Powers
publishes. I have called Chichester home for the past 10 years
and before that worked in real estate, government, and fundraising
in New York City. I have a Masters in Real Estate Development
from Columbia University, and a Bachelor’s degree in
History from Brown University.
I look forward to meeting and talking with as many people
as I can in the next six weeks. Please come say hello as I
campaign around the District.
This is an open letter to the Onteora School Board. From a
tax payer’s viewpoint Onteora’s cost per student
for the 2005/2006 school year is one of the highest in Ulster
County. The New York State’s Board of Education uses
a complicated formula, but their 655 report submitted July
2005 reflects the same information regarding cost per student.
With the 1,887,438 million dollar increase in the budget and
the student population possibly declining the cost per student
will only increase. At this point in time there’s nothing
on the school’s Web Page that indicates that there will
be any money left over that could be used to reduce the 2006/2007
As of December 2005 there were 2,023 students in the entire
school district. As of that date the school had 71 Teaching
Assistants, 174 Teachers plus, School Nurses, Librarians,
Psychologists, Therapists, Counselors and Social Workers.
The 71 Teaching Assistants plus the 174 teachers averages
out to a little over eight students per class. This doesn’t
mean that every class might have eight students. Some classes
may have more then the eight students and some may have less.
It’s important to note that this is an average.
The school currently employs 391 people. That averages out
to about one employee for every five or six students. 337
students get free lunch and 168 students receive partial free
lunch at the school. It’s a good thing that these children
are able to have a good lunch. But, there’s another
side to this story. Those 505 kids that get either a free
or partial lunch should be an indicator to the board that
there are 505 families in the district that are having financial
problems. Not to mention all the seniors living on a fixed
Anyone having any business sense knows what the largest expenses
are when you run a business. Of coarse it’s salaries
and benefits. What do corporations do when they start to get
into financial trouble? They reduce the work force. In this
case it’s the taxes that are the financial problem.
The Custodial and Maintenance departments should be checked
to see if those operations could be at least partially sub-contracted.
It’s important that the budget be reduced before the
budget vote because the contingency budget reduction doesn’t
do much at all to reduce the tax burden.
There is something I don’t understand about this budget.
In the Superintends budget recommendation on page four it
reads, this does not include Buildings and Grounds which were
presented previously. Why don’t those two department
budgets show somewhere in the Schools budget recommendations?
Attention needs to be brought to the crisis that budgeting
is having on Special Education programs in the Onteora school
district. At particular risk is the position of the teacher
for the deaf. Currently there is one teacher who services
children with hearing problems of all grades throughout the
school system. There is a proposal to eliminate this position
and have these children absorbed by speech therapists who
are not properly trained to handle the severity of the struggles
that hearing-impaired children face in learning. My son, Richard
Williams, who is now a freshman at a competitive university,
would not have become such a successful student without this
support. In eighth grade when he began at Onteora, he was
severely behind in writing and reading. Up until this time
nothing seemed to work and no cause was discovered. Fortunately,
the teacher of the deaf, Cass Reep, sent him for a special
hearing test and it was discovered that he had auditory processing
problems. She was able to work with him a few times a week,
and he was finally able to excel and achieve his potential.
There are students with more severe hearing problems than
my son's and, if this position is eliminated, they will suffer
greatly. It is a terrible thing that we would slow the advancement
of these children in order to save a few dollars. Please show
your support and let the school board know this is unacceptable.
The next board meeting on this topic is Tuesday, April 4,
and the final vote on budget considerations is Tuesday, April
I have just heard that Ulster County Republican legislators
will not be supporting resolution draft 0401 calling on the
state Board of Elections to pick Paper Ballot/ Optical Scan
technology for elections.
For several years, I participated in our electoral process
[beyond the act of voting] by being present at my district's
vote tallying along with people from other political parties
and then passing the results onto our local Democratic Party
headquarters tally board. After that, I worked in my polling
place, the Cedar Grove firehouse, checking people in and pressing
that button which activates the old lever voting machines.
That's as close to the core of our voting system as you can
get. Any errors or malfunctions in the process were known
immediately and either repaired, corrected or officially noted.
It was sometimes tedious and frustrating as well as a source
of humor. We trusted it because everything was verifiable
and citizens left the voting booth knowing that their vote
would be counted.
The DRE machines do not offer this assurance. They cost more,
not only initially, but in the maintenance, repair, upgrading
and apparently even storage. Ask your legislators: do they
stand on this?
Have you noticed the frenzied political activity in the nation's
"Halls of Nonsense" these past few weeks? It seems
that while we were sleeping our country was invaded by so
many "illegal" immigrants which is nothing new.
Our representatives in Washington at the prodding of a few
"citizens" now want to ship them home or confer
citizenship on them.
When one looks at the prospect of rounding up all of the uninvited
guests with the attendant cost in resources to the American
taxpayer it is easy to experience vertigo. On the other hand
manipulating the path to citizenship in a way that some of
our more "brilliant" and resourceful Senators have
suggested causes excitement in the recesses of our brain.
"After 5 years go home and apply". Yeh, right.
The gathering of the 100 Senators on Thursday, April 7th with
one lone "pool" camera was a circus. The bobbing
and weaving of each one for a good angle or profile would
have made a contortionist proud. As each one spoke and congratulated
themselves I kept seeing Professor Irwin Corey on the Microphone.
You all remember the slovenly attired master of double talk
professor of Johnny Carson days who left your brain in a well
of confusion; "huh"? However, I digress. The Thursday
gathering of 100 wisepersons seemed to be in accord as to
how we would treat or deal with these neighbors who don't
wish to be just neighbors any longer. Just look at all the
trouble they have caused. "Minutemen" are on the
job. "Mules" and "Coyotes" have had to
alter their routes and methods of facilitating what they do.
The Border Patrol catches and releases 3-400 "violators
each day that dissapear into the American fabric with their
"desk appearance" summons.
Where do they go? They seek and find a landscaper, a lettuce
or grape grower, a restaurant "grease pit" a body
shop or some other "plantation" entrepeneur who
are now the latest slave owners in America. $3.20 an hour?
No benefits? No complaints.
If we leave these uninvited guests alone the indentured rolls
will continue and increase. If we manage to corral some 12-14
million renegades and deliver them to their homes who will
clean our restrooms, cut our grass or make the fajitas? One
concern might be that as these folks are being pushed over
the wall like a volley ball others are coming over at some
other point of the 2200 mile border.
Did you see the parades and demonstrations a week ago? School
kids turned truants and worse; criminals. One kid had the
nerve to show up for class with a "T" shirt that
stated "Latinos forever" and was promptly expelled.
What nerve! Only Americans should live into eternity, anywhere.
Then we saw the unpardonable. People wrapped in the Mexican
flag which "unsprung" many "patriotic"
observers. Who cares? When lettuce climbs to $2.89 [as in
gasoline] I'll wake up.
On Friday, April 7th just after sunrise in Washington a failed
"trial" vote was conducted in the Senate as to what
they all had agreed to on Thursday; a "comprehensive"
[large and understandable] immigration bill. Gee, I thought
for so many years we had immigration laws and that all our
grandparents followed them to the letter. But they came by
ship, learned English, worked and paid taxes and integrated
themselves into the American system. [I also thought that
Onteora School was the only "democratic" institution
that had a trial (budget) vote each May].
Am I for or against? Go figger. After all, some advocates
on TV have likened us all to lawbreakers with the charge that
we have parked illegally, ran a red light or "jay walked".
I remember spitting on the sidewalk once in earlier days [ugh].
A proper solution might be since both political parties are
disingenuous [liars where I come from] is to vote for each
challanger in Nov. and "dump the incumbant'. I like that;
"dump the incumbant". Has a nice ring to it, eh?
Glenn T. Anderson
Want to help keep the Catskills beautiful? Join the Catskill
Heritage Alliance for our annual reservoir cleanup dates.
It's good work and a good time in a lovely setting. Who says
cleanups can't be fun.
On Saturday, May 6, and Saturday, June 3, we will meet at
9 a.m. at the Frying Pan area of the Ashokan Reservoir. On
August 26 we will meet at the Pepacton Reservoir. We work
about two and a half hours and then spend a bit of time marveling
at the incredible piles of trash we collect. Oh, and an occasional
treasure such as a beautiful piece of driftwood. After marveling,
we typically find a nearby restaurant for a post-cleanup lunch
where we can continue the camaraderie and sense of a job well
To reach the Frying Pan parking area, take Route 28 to the
town of Olive. Turn south onto Reservoir Road at Winchell's
Pizza. Drive 1.8 miles to the stop sign and turn left onto
Monument Road and go east 0.3 miles. Turn left onto Rte 28
A and go east 0.9 miles. Turn left onto an unsigned road which
may be marked "dead end" and go 0.3 miles to the
public parking circle. This is the Frying Pan.
Please bring work gloves and your sense of humor. Everything
else is provided. For questions or more information call Jo-Anne
at 688-2038. Hope to see you there.