Onteora Tax Hit
since the elections and budget vote in May, the Onteora Central School
District board of education decided not to enact the Large Parcel
bill for the coming school year, rejecting the measure by a 5-2 vote
at its August 22 meeting at the Junior/Senior High School Cafeteria.
A large audience of Olive residents cheered on the decision after
making a number of impassioned speeches and occasional heckling of
those supporting its implementation in the past year.
New board members Cindy O’Connor, Rita Vanacore and Mary-Jane
Bernholtz, all of Olive, and all elected after gaining near-unanimous
support from their fellow town residents, all voted against enacting
the Large Parcel, along with new board president Dave Patterson of
West Hurley, who came out against the controversial bill this summer.
Also voting against the bill this time was former supporter Lev Flournoy,
an Olive resident, who said he had changed his stance based on taxpayers’
“I believe firmly ORPS (NYS Office of Real Property Services)
and the [state] Legislature, need to return to the drawing board and
I believe the towns need to return to our politicians, legislatures
and senators and talk to them about this - this is not school board
business,” Flournoy said, gaining applause from the large crowd
“I will challenge everybody sitting at this meeting and a town
of Olive resident, as soon as we are done with this meeting, tomorrow
morning, to start making phone calls to get this changed,” Patterson
said before his vote, noting his concern that future school board
elections become “one issue” unless it not come back as
something school trustees must act on each year.
Voting for the issue as last year were board veterans Herb Rosenfield,
of Woodstock, and Marino D’Orazio, of Marbletown. Although both
decried the bill’s existence, they defended their votes based
on their continuing concerns for “equity” between towns,
and their belief that the bill, however faulted, had been moving in
When some of the crowd called for D’Orazio to stop talking,
Patterson, his replacement as board president, asked for calm and
noted that trustees were allowed to speak at length.
“I represent all the towns, not just Olive,” D’Orazio
said. “The other towns have just as much as a voice in this
debate as the town of Olive.”
Defending the Large Parcel bill, which was purported to aim at evening
out tax payments between towns by allowing the school district and
county to exclude the amount of property taxes paid by New York City
for the Ashokan Reservoir from Olive’s portion of the school
levy, supposedly spreading the benefit of those taxes evenly throughout
the rest of the district, were a handful of Woodstock town officials
and residents… and not a soul from Shandaken.
“I find it a shame that the amount of energy that has been spent
on the divide and conquer mentality and pitting one town against another
could have been spent on developing a long term plan for our students
when money was cheap,” said Bernholz during the meeting. “I
encourage all of you to assert yourself in lobbying higher levels
of government for long term solutions, such as a mandated reval system.”
O’Connor stated she would never support a bill “where
somebody is always going to be a loser.”
When, during public discussion, several speakers addressed the length
of time it had been since Olive had last revalued its properties,
Olive deputy town supervisor Bruce LaMonda assured everybody his town
would complete it’s current reval, counter to rumors now circulating
In the past, LaMonda has noted that Shandaken is long overdue for
a reval, as well, without the excuse of pending lawsuits with New
York City that kept Olive from doing its own for years.
Woodstock town supervisor Jeremy Wilber continued to anger Olive residents
to the boiling point by drawing long-winded comparisons between homes
and their tax levies.
It’s all moot, for now.
Town of Olive property owners will save $476.87 per $1,000 assessed
valuation in the coming year
Rates per $1,000 assessed valuation approved by the board at the recent
meeting were for: Hurley at $12.33 for a $1.17 increase of 10.48 percent,
8 cents higher than under the large parcel law; Marbletown at $11.10
for $4.84 decrease of 30.36 percent, or 90 cents higher than under
the large parcel law; Olive at $1,563.54 for a $296.95 decrease of
15.96 percent, $476.87 lower than under the large parcel law; Shandaken
at $39.64 for a $3.65 increase of 10.14 percent, $3.21 higher than
under the large parcel law; Woodstock at $11.94 for a 78-cent increase
of 6.99 percent, or 97 cents higher than under the large parcel law;
and Lexington at $12.33 for a $1.17 increase of 10.48 percent, $1
higher than under the large parcel law.
In other business at the recent meeting, it was announced that the
school district’s insurance company pay most of the defense
costs incurred from the pending lawsuit filed by Charles Blumstein
against numerous entities over its implementation of the Large Parcel
law; the board okayed up to $50,000 for architectural and engineering
services to conduct a review of building conditions and come up with
a five-year capital facilities plan; the board decided to place new
restrictions on use of the High School parking lot, with the possibility
of ticketing illegal parking; and the board approved placing of a
plaque in the High School Band Room in memory of Lawrence Stowe, the
former music director in whose honor an entire wing may be named.
September 6, the day after Labor Day, will be the first day of the
In the race for the town’s top job, Republican incumbent
Robert Cross Jr. came away with all 11 votes, while Democratic Challenger
Peter DiModica got none.
The same held for town council hopefuls Gerry Setchko and Robert Stanley.
Both Republicans got unanimous endorsement while Democratic challengers
Pete Disklafani and Doris Bartlett were ignored.
In the race for Superintendent of Highways, Ken Berryann took nine
of the 11 votes while challenger Keith Johnson got only two. This
win gives Berryann Republican, Democratic and Conservative endorsements,
leaving Johnson with an independent spot ob the ballot come November.
In the races for two town Justice seats, Republican incumbent Tom
Crucet got 11 votes for one endorsement, and his running mate, Ted
Byron, got a Conservative nod over Democratic Challenger Patricia
Ellison by a vote of 9 to 2.
In the race for town assessor, Republican John Horn got all 11 votes.
Although a small group, the Conservatives carry weight in local elections.
A rule of thumb is that the party endorsement amounts to 150 votes
in the general election, an amount that can swing victory to those
graced with conservative acceptance.
Growing Social Problem
And then the clincher:
An August 18 press release from State Senator John Bonacic announcing
$21.6 million in funding assistance for projects designed to “improve
the quality of housing for the region’s seniors and workforce,”
including a $500,000 grant to SHARP, among a little over $3 million
coming to Ulster County.
Meanwhile, Ulster County Social Services Commissioner Glenn Decker
has been touting a recent county Housing Consortium market analysis
that practically screams for more affordable rental properties in
the area. Family of Woodstock director Michael Berg is putting together
new rental properties in the county seat to handle the growing problem.
Kevin O’Connor of the Rural Ulster Preservation Company (RUPCO)
is shepherding over 50 new units of affordable housing into the neighboring
town of Woodstock, among a number of key county projects. And many
are pointing out that it was not that long ago that our very own Route
28 Corridor Study Committee pointed out Shandaken’s own need
for more affordable rental units.
What gives? What exactly is the state of affordable housing in town
and, more important, are we being hurt by a changing national climate
that’s not only pushing attention away from rentals, affordable
for the working poor, towards home ownership and, equally important,
shifting funding priorities further away from rural constituencies
to urban needs?
“The greatest need in this area is for family rentals, for people
with children,” said SHARP’s Executive Director, Jane
Todd, who also serves as a second-term tonw board member. “People
are asking me for help in this area all the time.”
Todd explained that the recent letter from her Asssistant Director,
Buffy Kibe, which pointed to last year’s drastic 50 percent
cut in state Rural Housing Preservation Company funding as the reason
the non-profit had to divest itself of its six-unit Friendship Manor
property in Pine Hill, erred in that it didn’t mention that
all those cuts had been restored this year.
So why the divestiture?
“What happened there is that the property became a burden to
us. We couldn’t afford to pay all the bills with the rents that
we were getting and it wasn’t subsidized in any manner,”
Todd explained. “And the truth is that we’ve had several
tenants who trashed the place, costing us $10,000 per apartment to
put them back together.”
Both Todd and Kibe have noted that the sale of Friendship Manor, currently
on the market, will allow them to match grant funds to build five
new senior citizen apartments at Tongore Pines in Olive. It will also
rid them of what both have described as a “burden.”
The new funds from the state, announced by Bonacic, are for local
home repairs and housing upgrades, Todd added. The idea is to help
those who already own, the better to heat their homes and stabilize
a dwindling housing market, at least on its low end.
That, Todd said, has long been her main focus at SHARP, unlike the
more rental- and social services-oriented efforts at RUPCO, Family
and the county.
“I have noted that it was hard to maintain that property, and
that they needed the cash,” said Decker of the recent moves.
“But both of these things don’t add up to a positive trend.
It reminds me of the heartbreak involved in selling off a family farm.
You can’t get it back.”
Michael Berg, founder and director of Family, was similarly elegiac
about what he sees as a bad trend.
“Once affordable housing is sold off it’s usually no longer
affordable,” he said. “Market pressures will push it along.”
Berg said the current problems in rural areas are not of any single
person’s making, but part of “a sad trend.”
“Is there enough affordable rental housing for those who can’t
afford to own? Not in any way,” he added. “The question
has to be posed in Albany and Washington. It’s something we’re
working on all the time.”
In Shandaken, meanwhile, Todd said she didn’t know where people
were moving who needed affordable rentals. She had heard of some going
to Fleischmanns and Margaretville, but admitted it’s not something
her office, or anyone, is tracking. The everyday demands for help
are too great.
Todd points out how she’s been swamped with grant applications
and financing reports of late. As well as how the avenues of available
funding tend to dictate the sort of social projects an entity like
SHARP can undertake.
Berg and Decker point out that under such circumstances, especially
where needy renters are also facing transportation problems, a situation
everyone agrees is about to get worse, many end up migrating to Kingston
and other centers for such care. Which is why, they say, there are
so many new projects in the nearby city.
Yet for all the challenges, Todd says she’s still working on
ways to assuage the problem. SHARP has bought a property on Church
Street in Phoenicia. Furthermore, she’s working on “something
big” that she doesn’t feel at liberty to talk about yet,
what with the NIMBY aspects of all such projects.
“The unfortunate thing is that it’s a whole lot easier
to sell senior housing that’s affordable,” Todd said.
“It’s a tough thing in rural areas. We have to pluck at
the problem piece by piece.”
As for those now renting at Friendship Manor, Todd and Kibe pointed
out that no one had moved yet, or been given any dates for moving.
Everything’s in it’s early stages. And SHARP will do what
it can to help such transitions, along with Family and the county,
“We are only a small organization in this ever-expanding community
and alone we cannot solve this problem,” Kibe wrote in her letter.
Not a formal call for help, but an effective one.
For further infoon what one can do to help, contact SHARP by calling
688-5777 or visiting www.sharpcommittee.org.
manages three million acres in the Adirondack and Catskill Parks, where
the goal is to preserve the wilderness, and another one million outside
the parks, where they plant and selectively harvest trees for lumber
and pulp in order to stimulate local economies. “We acquired a
lot of land in the 20’s and 30’s, when farms were going
out, and there was a need for lumber. We planted trees on a lot of abandoned
farmland. The vision was that state land would provide a predictable
amount of lumber for local sawmills and for construction. It plays an
important role in western New York.” As a forest technician, Rudge
inventoried trees to identify ones that were ready to cut, either for
thinning, providing space for more mature trees and profitable species,
or for harvest.
Upon moving to the Shandaken area, Rudge was promoted to the job of
creating management plans for blocks of wilderness, where the main human
interaction today is recreation. “Wilderness exemplifies the possibility
for solitude,” he explained. “People go fishing or hunting,
and they hike into the woods to camp. We maintain occasional lean-to’s
and designated campgrounds to emphasize solitude and primitive nature.
In our civilized society, people start to lose their connection with
nature. One of the goals of wilderness is to make us more dependent
on our own abilities, and less dependent on manmade contraptions.”
Rudge frequently camps out with his wife, Patty, and their children,
Sarah and Caleb, aged 7 and almost 11. He and Patty met through their
jobs when she was working as a wilderness ranger, camping and hiking
the trails to educate the public on the environment and the state’s
rules with regard to camping. As a forest ranger in the Shandaken area,
she also fought fires and did search-and-rescue. Originally from the
Vly, near Stone Ridge, she has lately retired due to injuries. “She
misses it very much,” said her husband.
Rudge’s present job involves coordinating the DEC’s many
programs operating in the region, making sure they share information
and work in concert. He also takes a regulatory role in reviewing projects,
including the ongoing post-flood road and creek repairs, to make sure
they are carried out with minimal disruption to wildlife habitat. He
has abstained from participating in evaluation of the proposed Crossroads
Ventures resort at Belleayre because he lives in the area, constituting
a potential conflict of interest.
One DEC success story was the acquisition of the Mongaup Valley Wildlife
Area in Sullivan County, where bald eagles have been nesting. The land
was bought from a utility company that maintains a hydroelectric project
nearby. The area is, ironically, attractive to eagles partly because
the power plant’s turbines tend to injure fish and make them easier
for the eagles to catch. “Eagles are notoriously lazy,”
noted Rudge. “I’m not suggesting we encourage this kind
of thing, but they are taking advantage of the situation.”
Another controversial local issue is the periodic release of water from
the Schoharie Reservoir through the Shandaken Tunnel. Trout Unlimited
and other organizations won their suit against New York City alleging
that the discharge, often too muddy and warm for fish populations, should
meet requirements similar to those of sewage treatment plants. DEC will
be the agency requiring the city to study means of drawing water from
the Schoharie that will enable them to extract the colder water in summer
rather than spring.
Among the current projects of the Department is a repeat of the Lark
in the Park event that was organized last fall to celebrate the Catskill
Park’s 100th birthday. It was so successful that another 100 events
are scheduled this October 1st through 10th, including hikes, bike rides,
paddles, and cultural events such as pottery studio tours. The events
are being coordinated by the DEC with help from the Catskill Mountain
Foundation and the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development.
“It could become a great annual event for the region,” said
Rudge. See www.catskillpark100.com for details.