JULY - DECEMBER
EDITOR TEDDY LINENFELSER
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Editor or addressed to: Letters to the Editor, 1871 Whitehaven Road, Grand Island, NY 14072
Previous Letters To The Editor
Letters to the Editor are not necessarily the 'viewpoint' of the management at Isledegrande.com and GIECOM.Net Inc.
Veteran Appreciates Isledegrande.com, Promotes Donations - 2009
As we welcome in the New Year, I thought about the Grand Island News as presented by IsledeGrande.com. I thought about the articles and pictures sent in by the many folks and organizations and those who read the latest news of the happenings on Grand Island. Then I think of what it would be like if we no longer would be able to receive this great means of communication. I am hoping it does not come to an end.
The thought of not getting the Town Hall News, the many notices of coming events, the Fire Reports, the Veterans notices, Chamber of Commerce notices, news of our Parks Dept., events, school news, reunions, and just about every thing that happens on the Island. Is covered on a timely basis. There is no other means of getting this kind of service.
Although it is “ FREE” on the WEB it is done at considerable cost to the sponsor Giecom.Net. The costs are partially covered by Ads placed by the local businesses but are not enough to cover the entire cost. Isledegrande.com has requested donations to help keep this service to the people of Grand Island, former residents who have left the Island ,the Servicemen and Women in far places. The donors and organizations who have stepped forward to help, are thanked and we would appreciate help from the many other users of this great service. The call for help is posted on the weekly NEWS PAGE. Give it your consideration !!!! Tell Your Friends !!! KEEP IT GOING !!!!!!!!!
Disabled American Veterans Grand Island Chapter # 168
Grand Island American Legion Post #1346
Charles N. DeGlopper Memorial Post # 9249 Veterans Of Foreign Wars
Toll Hike Takes Effect Sunday - 2009
This was a controversial issue last year at this time. Last year the Thruway Authority announced the increase and people came unglued as did the politicians. Well, they played it up to be anyway. Even Paterson came out against it. Of course it happened and now this year it will happen again most likely without any fanfare except by us.
The Thruway Authority continues to do what they want to do as they are held unaccountable to anyone. The politicians who supposedly represent Western New York are powerless to do anything, or they choose NOT to do anything. They don’t want to upset the applecart, after all although they refuse to acknowledge it, downstate dominates the legislature, our WNY delegation refuses to unite and stand up for US, so what ever NY City wants, NY City gets. Major problem is we have NO ONE standing up to FIGHT for us. How can we when we are represented by a majority of cowards, neither Party will work with the other and most importantly…… they have been bought off by the powerful downstate unions that want more influence up here and the proof was in the Hoyt/Thompson IDA reform Bill that will bury us in union demanded wages, benefits and costs that will make it further unaffordable to do anything here in WNY, but I digress.
We are surrounded by roads we have to pay double for. The commuter tax is charged at the Grand Island tolls, Lackawanna and the Williamsville toll booths. These roads are our only thoroughfare and we pay dearly for the use of them. We are taxed on each and every gallon of gasoline we buy 18.4 cents per-gallon, we pay more gas taxes at the pump than any other state. We pay taxes that are focused on roads and bridges yet our politicians use these funds for everything but roads. Our infrastructure is falling apart yet the costs have grown out of control.
I just returned from a trip to Massachusetts. It cost me $28.70 both ways so I paid $57.40 for the privilege of driving across this state on what has been labeled the most expensive thruway in the Northeast.
In Mass? I paid $4.20 on the Mass Pike. Sure there is a difference in mileage but broken down by the mile the difference is astounding. New York is close to .10 cents a mile. Massachusetts is less than .02 cents a mile. To top it off the Mass Pike is in much better condition than the New York State Thruway. What an insult.
Come Sunday, drivers across New York State will be paying more to use the state Thruway system. A five percent toll hike takes effect at 12:01 a.m. Sunday morning. As our Giselle Phelps reports it’s hard to find any Western New Yorkers who agree with the increase.
Posted January 7, 2010
Happy Holidays From DAV - Dec. 2009
Grand Island DAV 168 wishes everyone a Merry Christmas and a happy New Year and thanks you for your support for the past year
Posted December 23, 2009
An Amazing Woman - Dec. 2009
How do you begin to tell someone about all the wonderful things a special woman does for so many? Or better yet how do you let that person know how grateful and appreciative you are? Well I am speaking about Miss Nancy who drives the Bike bus for many, many children here on Grand Island. We have had the pleasure of having Miss Nancy as our children’s bus driver for the past three years and my husband and I are constantly amazed and touched by the things she does. Our first impression of her was the first day of school when our daughter began kindergarten. She had welcomed her with open arms and put us worried parents at ease with her charm, smile and confidence. Our daughter arrived home from school that first day with stories of her bus ride along with a special note from Miss Nancy explaining who she was, a bus knitted out of yarn, a pencil and some other little treasures. I recall thinking how could this woman, who has seven children I believe, have time to do all this? Well that was just the beginning . . .she continued thru the year sending the kids home with hand made magnets/crafts for holidays such as Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter, etc. etc. She even recognized our child’s birthday on the bus and sent her home with a birthday sticker and special bag. This year my second child began her journey to Kindergarten and as we hoped Miss Nancy was the bus driver for Majestic Woods once again. We were excited and relieved as we knew she would be in good hands with such an amazing bus driver. Again the letter, hand made gifts, smiles and encouragement for those children who were afraid to climb aboard the bus continued year after year. She even recognized the birth of our third child with a gift for our new baby. What bus driver does these type of things we thought????? Only Miss Nancy as we all fondly refer and gloat that she is our children's bus driver.
Also this year she was the driver who was involved in the bus accident on the corner of Baseline and Whitehaven that struck the tree head on in front of town hall. My child was on that bus that day and I am blessed that Ms. Nancy was capable of keeping all our children safe. She had to take a few weeks off to mend her broken limbs but was back in action before we all expected. She even had time again to make special holiday bags for the children which included a coffee cup, hot cocoa, another hand made craft (ornament) and some other small treasures. The holidays have become so over-rated and commercialized that I wanted to take the time to recognize someone who really deserves it. I think we have all become so busy in our lives with work, family and the hype of what's expected to be done over the holidays that sometimes the simple act of kindness and sweet words bring more joy then any store bought gift could. From the bottom of my heart, my husband and my children along with I’m sure the rest of Grand Island that knows Miss Nancy, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!!!!
Posted December 22, 2009
This Board Is Impervious To Reality - Dec. 2009
I spoke at last Monday (12/7) evening’s School Board meeting. If you weren’t there, you’d never know it from the Buffalo News or the Island Dispatch, but more on that later. First, let me share with you my unedited remarks . The sections in brackets, , were not included Monday. Then I’ll make some observations on the Board’s actions and views, the reporting by the Buffalo News and the Dispatch, and Lt. Governor Richard Ravitch’s statements in the 12/12/09 edition of the News.
My comments at the Board meeting.
While others may believe that you really want our opinions, I’m under no such illusion. The fact that every discussion of the defeated project by the district includes the mantra that it would have only raised taxes by $9.75/yr. shows that what you really want is for us to roll over and submit to whatever scheme you concoct. [You’re like 5 year old brats that scream and stamp their feet until they get their way.] I again remind you that NYS is broke. It is not due to the recession, but that has made it worse. Sam Hoyt and the other ostriches can’t repeal the laws of economics. NYS will be on a pay-as-you-go basis by this time next year unless drastic changes are made. These changes will negatively impact the state’s recycling of our tax dollars to school districts. This is because this is the only place to save real money. While you may latch on to the hope that if the state commits to supporting the capital project it will be legally bound to continue its funding. Maybe so, but dollars are fungible. They aren’t under any obligation to underwrite each year’s operating budget. So what they give with the left hand, they will withdraw with the right.
Let’s talk about the $9.75/yr for the typical homeowner. Does this figure include the fact that you have been scarfing up $2.8MM per year from us in excess of the amount you spent to actually run the district? In other words, is the $9.75 on top of the $2.8MM or are you proposing to reduce the tax burden by the $2.8MM each year? [By the way, with approximately 6,000 households on Grand Island, this amounts to an average of about $467 per year per household.] We all know the answer.
What should you do, then?
1. Repair and maintenance items should be removed from any capital project and funded through the annual operating budget since they are operating items!
2. Don’t spend another dime on the entranceway unless you are going to rip it down and return it to the way it was before the current monstrosity was erected.
3. Let a booster club address fancying up the athletic fields.
4. Drive a stake through the heart of the ill-conceived International Baccalaureate Curriculum (IBC) boondoggle.
5. Forget more weight rooms and gyms, you’re running an educational institution, not a health spa.
6. Do the science labs that you led us to believe were to be done in 1999
7. If the [so-called] award-winning energy system still doesn’t work then you need to be suing either the manufacturer or the installer or both. We paid a lot of money for that, $2.3MM in fact, and will be writing checks for another 7.5-8 years.
8. Stop collecting funds into the capital reserve slush fund.
9. If you want to try again in May with a different capital project, you better have a line by line breakout of the costs.
The cavalier disregard with which you spend our money is astonishing. While in the grand scheme of things it won’t break us, a particularly egregious example is the Board’s agreeing to pay in excess of 85% of an administrator’s [the superintendent] health care for life, and I’m sure that isn’t just a medicare supplement. The attitude that led you to do that is most revealing. You hold the taxpayer in contempt. You just like to feel warm and fuzzy which spending other people’s money allows you to do.
And you wonder why the vote was a total rout.
[You say you want the community’s input. They gave it to you at the ballot box. The reason most people do not speak up at these Board meetings is due to fear. This district has a reputation for being vengeful and vindictive. They don’t want you to take out your disagreements with their views on their kids either through grading or references. You really need to do some soul-searching regarding the climate that you have fostered.]
Turning now to the reporting on the meeting.
In the Buffalo News’ account on Tuesday, it was stated, among other things, that: The Grand Island School Board on Monday discussed the idea of mailing a questionnaire to about 8,500 town households in an effort to gather feedback on why district voters last month rejected a $47.3 million proposal for capital projects by a 2-1 ratio.
Had it passed, 80 percent of the cost of the project would have been reimbursed by the state and would have cost the average local property owner about $9.75 a year for 15 years.
“It’s a travesty that after 22 months, we, as a board, did not get the information that we needed out there [to the public],” said School Board President Richard J. Little Jr.
“We have a long history of not doing our infrastructure,” [island resident Nancy]Sandford said. “We’ve known about the Kaegebein [Elementary School] plumbing and foundation for 10 years. Why hasn’t money been put into it?” Where does one start? For those old enough to remember phonograph records, if they were scratched, they wouldn’t finish but would repeat the same section endlessly. This is how the Board President Little sounds. He always finds it incomprehensible that anyone would disagree with him, despite the fact that evidence doesn’t support his positions. The Board had every opportunity imaginable to get information out to the public: the Dispatch, the Bridge, Isledegrande.com, public information sessions, etc. The hard, undeniable fact is that they didn’t want to release any more information about the project. It was clear that as the details dribbled out that support was eroding. At the public sessions leading up to the vote, their answers were evasive or otherwise unsatisfying. See Donna Tomkins, Karen Rogers, or Susan Socko’s letters to the editor on Isledegrande.com for evidence of that. I’m also told that superintendent Christmann dismissed questions out of hand at at least one of these sessions. The high-handed and arrogant attitude of the folks running the district reflects their attitude towards the community: you are here to fund our pet projects.
The nonsense that the net effect of passing this boondoggle would be to increase our taxes by $9.75 per year to the average homeowner is part and parcel of the problem. As we will see below when I discuss Ravitch’s comments, NY State is broke. It is already slowing down reimbursements to school districts. While Little and company may hang their hats on the fact that the State “will be obligated” to fund the 80%. Yeah, so what? They can cap total aid to the district which would cause our property tax share of the annual operating budget to increase. Remember: we pay for everything, it just depends if it comes from income and sales taxes or property taxes. I’d be willing to lay odds that any decrease in operating aid, which is coming, would completely offset the capital project aid.
Considering the fact that NY has never had such a dire fiscal situation or outlook, even during the 1930s, Mr. Christmann’s comments in the Dispatch: “In a 100-year history (of public-approved capital projects) the state has never defaulted" is irrelevant. Extrapolation from the past into the future is only appropriate if everything is the same. Clearly, it isn’t.
The board conveniently ignores the fact that they are overcharging us by $2.8MM per year currently. This overcharge isn’t going to go away if we approve the project. Our annual cost will be $9.75 plus the $2.8MM that they have been pouring into the capital reserve slush fund. (I warned about this when it came up for a vote in 2007. At that time, the board and administration were so intent on getting this cookie jar that they changed the proposition number TWICE before the election. This is how desperately they lusted after this.) Nancy Sandford’s remarks, quoted in the News, are most informative. “We’ve known about problems at Kaegebein for 10 years. “ Let’s see, in that time frame we have had the 1999 capital project (for which I still believe that criminal charges should be placed); the 2006 EXCEL [FREE MONEY] capital project to fix all of the deficiencies identified, or so we were told; and the Board has accumulated $5.6MM in the capital reserve slush fund. The Board can’t fix plumbing and foundation problems that impact 7- to -10 year olds but they can spend money on training for the IBC boondoggle.
The ICB boondoggle (I refuse to call it a program since it is just designed to further waste taxpayer resources on a fad) originally was to have teachers go to watering holes down south for their training. Now we are told that our teachers will work with Ken-Ton teachers locally. While not wasting money sending teachers south, why are we doing this anyway? It is a complete waste of scarce resources (see Kaegebein above). Other districts closed it down because of cost and lack of participation, Williamsville evaluated it and opted to pass on it. The parents in Fairfax County in Virginia shut it down once they discovered what it was all about. If parents really want their kid to do something international, send them to Eton or Harrow or one of the many other options that exist, but don’t expect the rest of us to subsidize you.
Let’s turn to the newspaper accounts. The Buffalo News only spoke about the capital project in its article. As I said, it did quote Nancy Sandford. However, I was the first and only person to speak about the capital project in the Voice of the People at the start of the meeting. Maybe because I didn’t stay for the whole meeting: I can only take so much of their self-serving nonsense at a time; that my comments were ignored. The Dispatch’s article, though, has nothing, I repeat, nothing, against the Board or administration. Neither my comments or Ms. Sandford’s are mentioned. One would get the impression that there weren’t any contrary views whatsoever expressed. This type of selective editing is what has caused the print media to lose its station as the premier source of information for the public. There are other options these days to obtaining information, i.e., Isledegrande.com. The print media needs to remember an important point from economics: if you don’t have monopoly power, don’t act like a monopolist, someone will compete around you and put you out of business.
And now the piece de resistance: Lt. Governor Ravitch’s comments. On page A8 Matthew Spina reports on Mr. Ravitch’s remarks. Now Mr. Ravitch is not one who is given to hyperbole, so when he makes the statements that he does we should take notice. Let’s start with the last sentence of the article: “New York State is in very, very serious trouble,” he said. Only the public sector unions and the deniers on school boards believe otherwise. As Ravitch points out the “legislature will seek re-election in 2010, as the [Federal] stimulus money burns away and government leaders face a deficit that, in his opinion, could widen to $18 billion if the federal government ends stimulus aid completely.” He also noted that the existence of the stimulus money has made the problem appear less serious than it is in reality.
I’ve said on these pages before that the stimulus money has only pushed the day of reckoning back, not eliminated it, and will have caused the problem to be even worse so that the correction will be that much more wrenching.
With the State’s finances dissolving like an ice cream cone in New Orleans in July, what thought process can animate our school board to be so obstinate in their desire for all of these expenditures? Most of which are unnecessary since they are associated with the IBC boondoggle. As I said at the beginning, the board is not in the least interested in our opinion. This is sop so that they can hopefully schmooze enough people to vote yes and enable them to indulge their fantasies (with our money, of course.)
If a clear message isn’t delivered to the board that the status quo doesn’t work, they will continue to waste our hard-earned dollars. The only way to send that message is to vote the incumbents out. They all should be defeated when they are up for re-election. If necessary write in Yosemite Sam and Alexei Kosygin: one is a Looney Toon and the other, a dead commie. Either would be superior to what we currently have. If you think I’m kidding just look at their record: this capital project; awarding Christmann lifetime health coverage when he makes $156,000+ as it is; changing the proposition number from #2 to #IV to, finally, #3, for the vote on the capital reserve fund; their miserable treatment of the home-schooled young lady and her father who just asked if she could partake in extra-curricular activities, specifically softball; and their unwillingness to come clean on the debacle of the past capital projects.
Posted December 17, 2009
Casey Family Expresses Appreciation - Dec. 2009
The Casey Family would like to extend our heartfelt gratitude to our "Grand Island Family." All the support which we received during this very difficult time with our son/brother Ed, was simply overwhelming. We are very blessed to have such amazing friends and co-workers. Thank you again!
The Casey, Kuehne and Sinicki Families
Posted December 10, 2009
Democracy And The Election Process - Dec. 2009
December 7, 2009 . . .As I finish this second term representing the people in the 10th district of Erie County, I want to express my thoughts on our election process. I have worked diligently to serve all of my constituents in the district and like to refer to myself as a true servant of the people. Your problems were my challenges, and I addressed them aggressively on your behalf.
In light of the extremely low voter turnout this past November, I feel compelled to share my thoughts with you about our duties as Americans and the health of our democracy. Someone once said, “Democracy is not a spectator sport!” Like anything else, another adage states, “Use it or lose it!”
I do not take my loss as a personal attack or disapproval of my four years in the Erie County Legislature. In reviewing election results statewide, it frightens me to see that fewer and fewer numbers of registered voters are exercising this most important right, the right to vote. What is even more frightening to me is that less people are even registering to vote. The idea that one vote doesn’t count is a fallacy. Last month in Erie County and in local races a recount was necessary because there was only a one or two vote plurality and often the recount reversed the outcome. When we take into consideration the number of citizens over 18 and eligible to vote, versus the number registered, versus the number that actually voted, it is far less than a majority of citizens that are determining our government leaders across the state. This is not democracy. Democracy is defined as majority rule.
I believe that several dedicated elected officials in Erie County were removed from office by an ‘anti-government or anti-incumbent attitude on the part of the small percentage that did turn out to vote. I share your distrust of public officials after the debacle in Albany this past year. Let’s remember in 2010 who the players were in Albany that caused the debacle. It is the State’s fiscal problems that have passed on fiscal problems to our local municipalities. As a result, many good, hard-working, dedicated people will no longer be there to represent the peoples’ interests. I speak on behalf of all political parties. I believe low turnout, along with this distrust, are both major factors that cost me my re-election. I do not believe it was my job performance.
What frightens me the most is the increase in apathy. We can not afford to let our democracy become a victim of apathy. It is like a contagious disease that is spreading across the State.. This allows policy to be implemented that is not the will of the people. The fewer numbers that officials must answer to, the less accountability they have.
I worked diligently to serve my constituents as a hands on Legislator. I responded to each of your individual problems with promptness and determination to serve you. Government is here for the people and I lived by that motto daily. I responded to flooded basements, to pothole complaints, to emergency food supplies during the October storm, or whatever the day put forth. While responding to your needs to the best of my ability, I continually put forth government reform and provided fiscal oversight of your tax dollars.
I plan to stay involved in my community organizations throughout the district. Possibly I will see you at some of these events. Please feel free to contact me, if needed, at my home number and “Happy Holidays to all!”
Erie County Legislator Michele Iannello
Posted December 10, 2009
Jim Mulcahy Deserves Debt of Gratitude - Nov. 2009
Grand Island's property owners and taxpayers owe a debt of gratitude to Jim Mulcahy for the trouble he goes to, examining and commenting on the School Board's taxpayer money spending initiatives. I'm glad he finds the time to keep an eye on them for us.
Fact is....most of us are occupied with going to work everyday, looking after the kids, going shopping, and myriad other things that normal families are up to. We don't have time to attend School Board meetings or parse the financial details of the Board's eager spending schemes.
The Board, on the other hand, has access to accountants and attorneys, and other functionaries whose sole purpose is to gin up plans and spending schemes in support of those plans. They have all the time they need; it's what they do. Truth is.... some of what's in the plans is in response to mandates imposed on New York State property owners and taxpayers by a runaway State Legislature. ( ...voting yes or no on any school budget is a waste of time. If you vote no......and the budget is defeated.....you will get a contingency budget wherein 98% of what was proposed is passed anyway, because of State mandate, and things you would like for your kids - sports, and busses, for example, will be removed. )
This latest bond proposal was so out of touch with reality; one has to wonder what the Board was thinking when it proposed the gargantuan amount.
The economy is in a shambles, vast numbers of folks are out of work, people are losing their homes, New York State is facing a budget deficit in excess of 3.5 billion dollars and the local cadre of elected State yes men continue to do nothing about it. Suggested State aid, in support of the proposed bond issue, was a fantasy, and we are already paying excessive school taxes - a large portion of which are directed to legacy costs; pensions and health care premiums, for example. Along comes our School Board, lost in an Alice in Wonderland world like a bunch of mad hatters, asking us if it's OK if they borrow 47 million dollars and hand us the tax bill. Amazing !
Wearing stickers proclaiming: "I'm for kids" puts the wearers right up there along side P.T. Barnum. Nobody is more for kids than we, their parents, are. That's why this profligate bond issue went down to defeat; it wasn't in their best interest at all.
Kevin J. Rung
32 Dolphin Drive
Posted November 25, 2009
You Mean Folks Caused the Proposal to Go Down in Defeat - Nov. 2009
I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry at Mr. Sadkowski’s Letter to the Editor of November 19th. From the get-go he creates a straw man to attack, chastising the Letters to the Editor section of IsledeGrande for being, well, a Letters to the Editor section. I’m sure it would come as a shock to even the New York Times or Wall Street Journal to have their Letters to the Editor pages criticized for being letters from readers, or pejoratively referred to as ‘gossip columns’, and not being “fair and balanced” reporting. This is beyond ridicule. As the Editor pointed out, nothing prevented Mr. Sadkowski from writing before the vote.
He then takes the voters to task for their votes. He thinks that everyone would want to upgrade the schools, but that the Board could have done a better job explaining what they were proposing. Wrong. The Board was asked about the expenditures but avoided details at the meetings scheduled by the Board. Why, you may ask? It is simple; a substantial portion of the expenditures are for what any reasonable person would call repair and maintenance items. Items that should be funded out each year’s operating budget, not rolled into a capital plan. The Board doesn’t do that because it would force them to do one of two things: raise taxes or cut spending elsewhere. They have been unwilling to do either. Instead, they wait until conditions are dire (if you think I’m exaggerating, take a look at some of the pictures they used to get support for the EXCEL (free money) project of a few years ago). They then roll the expenditures into a long-term bond, this one was to be for 15 years, for items that will have to be repaired two to three times over this period. This makes no sense. One shouldn’t borrow long to fund short-term expenses. As I pointed out in one of my letters this is what caused NYC to go bankrupt in 1975.
He then asks how much we are willing to spend. His discussion is priceless. I can’t make this up. He states, “With regard to the second question, there is no easy way to assess ‘the will of the people.’ It is easy to obtain the will of the few vocal people that eagerly promulgate their opinions.” The first part about assessing the will of the people is easy. It is called voting. The people did, defeating the proposition with 63.5% against and only 36.5% for, a total rout. For comparison, the four biggest routs in US Presidential elections were less one-sided: Johnson, 1964, 61.05%; Nixon, 1972, 60.67%; Roosevelt, 1936, 60.8%; and Reagan, 1984, 58.77%. I’d submit that our vote was a very clear reading of the will of the people. With regard to his contempt for those of us who exercise our right of free speech what does he suggest? The Board and administration are totally unforthcoming about their plans. I’m told that at one public session Mr. Christmann arrogantly dismissed questions. With the powers that be acting in such a high-handed manner, is it surprising that people opted for other venues to be heard?
He then says we need to trust this Board and that “this Board is different than any previous board that may or may not have managed previous capital projects.” Really? Mr. Goris and Mrs. Blair were here in 1999, for the last capital project. Mr. Casey and Mr. Seaman were part of the Board when it got around to doing the project. Mr. Franz and Mr. Bobeck are relative newcomers, so they are off the hook. I’ve left Mr. Little until last. I’m not aware that he recused himself in any of the deliberations since he has a massive conflict of interest, given that he is employed by Cannon Design.
But let’s talk about trust. We are in a recession. Upstate NY has had anemic economic activity for some time. The Board, though, amasses a $5.68MM reserve fund. They did this by overcharging us that amount over the past two years. Does any individual with even a modicum of economic or financial sense think that this has made any sense. I know that Mr. Christmann defends it but will never debate it. Where did this reserve fund come from? We approved it 2 years ago. Here is what occurred: a) the public notice, which I believe is the legal requirement to inform the public of the pending vote, was issued, and the capital fund was identified as Proposition #2; b) 10 days later the “Bridge” arrives, discussing the upcoming vote. In it the capital fund was listed as Proposition IV; and c) in the voting booth, it was Proposition #3. It went from being #2 in the legal notice to # IV to #3. There is only one reason to have done this and that was to confuse the electorate. I’m not even sure that the vote was valid since the legal notice and what actually occurred differed, and for no good reason. This was dishonest in the extreme. These people are entrusted with educating our children? Can any of the kids have respect for people like this?
Further, much of this proposed capital budget was to go for items that should have been under warranty: the high school HVAC system, you know, the “award-winning” one of eight years ago; or for a different entranceway to the high school. And then there is the International Baccalaureate Curriculum that they wanted to cram down our throats. Lewiston-Porter cancelled it because it was too costly. Williamsville, not a pauper district, opted not to even get involved. In Virginia, parents in Fairfax County got rid of it once they found out what it was all about.
To be blunt, this Board doesn’t deserve to be trusted. They have engaged in fiscal mismanagement and now want us to cover up their mess. They engaged in massive deceit when putting the capital reserve fund proposition before us. They have sucked $5.6MM in excess funds over the past two years, even with no increase in taxes this past year. One wonders by how much and for how long have they been overcharging us. They refuse to answer questions. We never get to see the budget or previous years’ actual results. And Mr. Sadkowski wonders why the proposal had the Bristol Stomp done on it?
The Board’s stewardship has been given a resounding no vote. If the Board was decent and honorable they would resign en masse allowing us to vote in a complete new slate, with none of them running.
Posted November 25, 2009
Fall Sports Jackpot - Nov. 2009
Good Afternoon Teddy;
The success of the fall high school sports teams has captured additional recognition this past week, and that recognition is noteworthy for a number of reasons. Not only for each indiviual team and their coaching staffs, but some individual honors as well.
Recently the Niagara Falls Gazette selected their fall sports Players of the Year, and there are 10 fall sports offered. Grand Island players were selected for 8 out of the 10 fall sports, so the recognition of the fall sports team success continues. The players selected and their respective sports are as follows:
Boys Cross-Country - Nick Masiello
Girls Cross-Country - Maritina Tsemblis
Boys Volleyball - Jonas Stalyga
Girls Volleyball - Chelsea Hall
Girls Tennis - Merel Schmid
Boys Football - Brett Dlugosz
Girls Soccer - Jeannie Taylor
Boys Soccer - Jeremy Figler
Congratulations to these individual athletes! It is recognition not only for each individual athlete, but their teammates and coaches as well. Just another example of "Island Pride," and the success of all of our fall sports teams, including boys golf (Alex Fry) and girls swimming (Megan McInerney) needs to be acknowledged.
It has been a banner year for GIHS fall sports and I am looking forward to the winter sports and hope that they have successful seasons as well.
Posted November 11, 2009
Reader Claims Isledegrande Successful In Getting Capital Project "Shot Down" - Nov. 2009
I find the recent lack of “fair and balanced” reporting by this publication disturbing. I am referring to the decision to print FIVE editorials from residents against the school district’s capital expansion plan versus ONE editorial from a student supporting the plan. Certainly, your editor must realize that if you are to be considered a legitimate news media outlet, you have a responsibility to fairly and equally represent both sides of an issue that is set to be voted upon by residents. Anything short of this leaves one wondering whether you are “Grand Island’s #1 news source,” that you claim to be, or nothing more than a gossip column with your own agenda.
I am sure that some of the comments published unanswered by this gossip column 4 days before the vote are valid issues that people should question. However, there are really only two fundamental questions: 1) Do you, as taxpayers, want to upgrade your schools, some of which are 40+ years old?
And if so,
2) how much do you want to spend?
With regard to the first question, perhaps the district could have done a better job detailing why they elected to add each particular item to the project plan. A brief bullet after each item explaining why it needs to be upgraded would probably answer most questions that people have. With regard to the second question, there is no easy way to assess “the will of the people.” It is easy to obtain the will of the few vocal people that eagerly promulgate their opinions. However, in the end, it is going to come down to trust in the school board that we elected. It does appear that there is a lack of trust that pervades the board when it comes to managing capital projects. But let me remind everybody that this board is different than any previous board that may or may not have managed previous capital projects.
I sincerely hope that the school board carefully examines the criticisms that have been made before they make any decisions about resubmitting a smaller plan. It seems that many people on both sides of the issue believe that we need to do some capital upgrades, but have remaining questions regarding the scope of work proposed. I hope that those who have offered criticism of our school board can be equally diligent offering constructive suggestions for the board to consider.
Posted November 19, 2009
Editor's note: As editor of Isledegrande.com, I take no position pro or con on any issue. I post every signed letter to the editor regardless of the writer's views. Perhaps you should have written your own Letter to the Editor stating your views and encouraged your friends to do the same.
Boys Volleyball Team Expresses Appreciation - Nov. 2009
The Grand Island High School Volleyball Team would like to sincerely "Thank You" for putting our tournament on your web page! People were telling us that it was the best tournament concession stand they had ever been to. We so appreciate your continued support through the years!
Again, many thanks,
Anne Bolton and the boys volleyball team
Posted November 16, 2009
Go Back To The Drawing Board For Capital Project - Nov. 2009
The Buffalo News reports Superintendent Christmann's claim that if the $ 47.3 million Capital Project is rejected, the district “would have to absorb all of the architectural expenses incurred so far.” But he has also said that these expenses were kept to a minimum to allow flexibility, and also that this is why he could not define project priorities. This is trying to have it both ways! An expert in high school technology has said that the computer plans for the classes are “already obsolete.” What’s needed, he said, is merely one teacher wireless laptop computer per classroom with groups using a computer lab as needed. The Middle School science lab pictured on the front page of “The Bridge” is not even listed in the project plan as one of the items to be addressed. These are some of the reasons to reject the current proposal.
The School Board has 90 days to offer a new plan which will better meet the educational and safety needs of our students. We should expect this of them.
Posted November 11, 2009
See Buffalo News story by Janice L. Habuda
Mulcahy Responds To Capital Project Letter - Nov. 2009
Young Mr. Kulak seems to believe everything he hears from the Administration and the Board President. (Did he really expect Mr. Little to say that the Board was goldbricking?) Still, it is hard to be upset with him even though I believe he is missing the point in all of this. After all, I was his age once.
Where to start? How about his slam against those who are opposed, “I also think that voting ‘no’ because of such a small increase is just selfish and cheap.” Really? How so? The fact that someone doesn’t share your preferences on how to spend the income they earned, doesn’t make them either selfish or cheap. Impugning their motives, though, does nothing for one’s standing. Or this gem, “As for the tax increase, sure your taxes will go up, but only like $15 or less per year. The increase in value to your home because the schools are better would more than make up for this.” Want to bet? This is an assertion that he has no foundation for, unless he is saying that the negative impact of the $2.6MM they suck out of us over and above what is necessary to run the place should be ignored.
He makes a point that is correct as far as it goes: one wouldn’t let their home fall into disrepair the way the Board has allowed the schools to. However, the problem is that the Board has deliberately neglected maintaining these facilities because they would have had to raise taxes or cut other expenses. They were unwilling, obviously, to do either. This leads to a problem. We are now being asked to pay for repairs through long-term borrowing for items that will need to be repaired/maintained well before the bonds are paid off. This is fiscal insanity. Financial legerdemain of this sort is what caused New York City to go bankrupt in 1975.
Mr. Kulak also bemoans the state of the science labs. Be careful with this one. They were supposed to be upgraded and added to in the last capital project. They weren’t because the Board wanted another gym but didn’t tell anyone about it. That capital project was so poorly (scandalously?) run that much of this project is to compensate for screw-ups there. No one has been held accountable in the least for it. I said at a Board meeting that there should be an investigation of it. I still think there should, preferably by the FBI.
In sum, it isn’t that there aren’t some items that make sense, i.e., the science labs, it is that they are being used as stalking horses for all sorts of waste. Returning to Mr. Kulak’s personal home example, one wouldn’t waste money on baubles that don’t improve anything. Further, the State is broke. They will renege on their commitment to fund, through our income taxes, fees, and sales taxes, their share which means our property tax portion will increase. They are already having to address cutting operating expenses midterm. While a good school system increases property values relative to a bad one, excessive spending on unnecessary items lowers value.
He thinks that people don’t have all the facts. The difficulty here is that when people questioned Mr. Christmann at the public meetings they were arrogantly dismissed without having their concerns addressed. Even at follow-up meetings the answers provided were said to be less than forthcoming (See Donna Tomkins letter). This has led many, quite rightly, to decide that there are better ways to spend their hard-earned money. Some day, Mr. Kulak, if all goes well, you will be a taxpayer. At that time you will have to decide if you want to opt for every item on the Board’s wish list. You will have to make choices just as you will with all of your other purchases.
Posted November 11, 2009
Many Unanswered Questions Regarding Proposed School Capital Project - 2009
What are the Superintendent and the School Board trying to hide? There are still many unanswered questions regarding the proposed Grand Island School Capital Project and we have yet to be shown an actual itemized budget. How can we vote on the unknown? I submitted a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) application to the Superintendent to receive this information and have not gotten anything back. It leaves me to believe that there are things in the Capital Project that he does not want anyone to see, until after he is presented a check for $47 million dollars.
It seems the Superintendent/school board members maintain that athletics are not a main concern, stressing that the safety and education of the children come first. Former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue was quoted as saying, “Football fields are an integral part of creating SAFE, viable and healthy communities. Not only do these fields enable youths to play sports but they also provide areas for recreation, EDUCATION, and relaxation that contribute to the overall quality of life in neighborhoods throughout the nation.”
Are you aware that our varsity boys and girls soccer teams had to travel to Lew-Port to practice for Sectional Championship games because our fields are inadequate and that the varsity football team had to practice for their Sectional Championship game under a portable light that one of the player’s father provided. The football team also had to travel to Sportsplex to practice on a turf surface. Our Children are worthy of updated and safer playing fields.
The structure and discipline regimen for those playing sports is an education in itself, and the association between a healthy body and healthy mind are undeniably linked. Our Grand Island sports teams have certainly earned the privilege of being afforded improved facilities and equipment, and the betterment of addressing the needs of our sports program/department should be given priority as such within the proposed budget.
As the budget currently stands with such obvious lack of concern and cooperation in upgrades needed for our sports program - please vote NO.
Posted November 12, 2009
Hey Brother, Can You Spare $47 Million? - Nov. 2009
I have to say it: $47 Million is a lot of dough. The unemployment rate in NYS hovers close to double digits. The State is in financial crisis, with current estimates of a multi-billion-dollar deficit this year, double that in 2010, and some long term estimates approaching $50 billion in the next half decade cumulatively. I’ll say it again: $47 Million is a lot of dough. That is my first issue with Grand Island Central School District’s proposed Capital Project plan.
The “Special District Meeting” being held on the 17th is to decide whether we should spend another $47 Million on an array of items throughout the district. Frankly, the “laundry list” does seem to have a number of valid entries. However, this voter can’t escape feeling that there appears equal validity to claims that we are being asked to pay for work we already paid for years ago. Or to repair work performed poorly. And that is just the second part of the dilemma for me.
Before voting yes or no, one should clearly evaluate some recent history. It’s been said, “Don’t trust the teller, trust the tale.” Well, in the last two years we have seen our teaching staff turned upside down. A fair number of teachers who have invested their heart and souls have been churned to new grades, to new schools and new assignments without as much as a discussion. Many fine professionals, in whom we have entrusted the instruction of our children, were effectively ordered into new jobs. Is that the district aligning its staff strengths with evolving student requirements? Or rather, is it a signal of an ongoing and curious movement in our district? Our District administration has seemingly morphed into a quasi-autocracy wielding wide control in this and other areas. Our School Board has been relatively silent on most matters - that is troubling enough. We hear the district say it courts public opinion, yet provides little evidence of it when making staffing decisions that are so impactful.
Consider also that less than two years ago, this district, this administration, hired a consultant to develop specifications for a sorely needed telecommunications system for the district. The consultant did the work, submitted specifications, got approval by our district, and then sent these on to NYSED for approval. Within a few months the plans were indeed approved by NYSED. The School Board’s minutes show basic informational updates over a several month period. But then a funny thing happened. The district in its infinite wisdom decided that they would forego the intended bidding process as communicated to NYSED and to its own Board (and the public therefore), and opted to buy a specific product (Nortel) using NYS pricing schedules. The sad truth was that this move left nearly all vendors “out in the cold,” unable to bid. A couple of ironies worth noting: First, Nortel is only one of dozens of providers of the technology in question – so choosing a single manufacturer placed the district in a terribly unfavorable position with respect to obtaining ample competitive bids. Second, the company they chose (Nortel) has gone bankrupt in 2009 – and will unfortunately never be the same. The most troubling aspect of this episode though is that the district has produced no record of any internal or public communication among the district administration, the School Board, or the Public that this new course was ever being contemplated, much less determined. And no, this was not like buying a few boxes of chalk – it was hundreds of thousands of dollars.
So yeah, $47 Million is a lot of dough when one considers a fuller picture. You may have seen the recent “Special Edition” of the BRIDGE where on page 6 a little chart shows the Project Timeline for your $47 Million. It notes among the milestones “SED Review and Approval” and “Bid Period.” I would submit to my fellow Islanders that a long pause is in order before you cast your vote. I think back to “Don’t trust the teller, trust the tale” and just cannot shake this uncomfortable feeling. I truly hesitate to take anything from our children. Yes, we really need some improvements in our schools, as well as some items that are not part of this plan or current annual budget. Our great footballers should not have to worry about practicing in the dark because we do not have adequate lighting. Our community should not have been stripped of the experience of a Pep Band at the football games. These are the little things that collectively grow large in all of our lives and in how we view GICSD.
Most of all, I cannot shake the more important truths that guide this very letter. We are in terrible economic times. We have historic reference of questionable spending, signs of worsening morale in the schools, and a seeming cavalier attitude toward those who might question actions. I sincerely hope for change as we should have a district comprised of real community involvement, open and inviting communication, and true collaboration toward the greater good. To my dismay, this has been sorely lacking. This vote could be a “wake-up” call on the Island for future inclusiveness.
$47 Million sure is a lot of dough.
Posted November 12, 2009
More Specific Facts Needed For Budget Vote - 2009
First of all, I would like to thank the Superintendent for the information provided regarding the budget. However, as a voter, I need more specific facts. I am respectfully requesting that the Superintendent make available a line item budget immediately. These figures are necessary in order to know specifically what we are voting on. This data should be made available to all so that we are adequately aware of where our tax dollars are being allocated. Without this detail, voters cannot confidently vote on the budget. I understand that the Superintendent received a Foil (Freedom of Information Law) application that is unanswered. These questions are legitimate and vital to the voting taxpayers. It is crucial that more precise data be made available to taxpayers without delay. I am writing to stress the significance in having more complete information so that as a taxpayer, I may vote with confidence and assuredness that my tax dollars are being most effectively distributed in the proposed Grand Island School’s Capital Project. Since time is of the essence, I ask that the Superintendent give this matter immediate attention.
Posted November 12, 2009
Accident Brings Out Wonderful Webb Road Neighbors - Nov. 2009
To all of the neighbors including two teenagers who stopped immediately when they saw what had happened to our truck and trailer on Friday, November 6th at 5:15 p.m. on Baseline and Webb roads, thank you from our entire family. We are thankful that no one was hurt including the other driver. Everyone pitched in and helped salvage 40 gallons of home made cider of the 104 gallons my dad, Don Swain, and I were hauling home.
Posted November 12, 2009
GIHS Student Addresses School District's Proposed Capital Project - Nov. 2009
As the vote for the proposed capital project for Grand Island schools draws nearer, I am getting more and more worried that it will get voted down. Everywhere I go, I have been getting negative feelings about it from people. They think it is a waste of money, their taxes will go up too much, there is not enough emphasis on athletics and the list of excuses goes on. It seems that people will go to any length to find a small reason to vote “no.” I have attended many of the meetings regarding the project and talked to Mrs. Anzalone of the high school and Mr. Little of the school board personally. After the meetings and talking to them, I can’t understand how anyone could even consider voting it down. To those of you who say we don’t need it, or it’s a waste of money; you could not be more incorrect. Imagine for a moment that the school was your home. Would you live in your home for 50 years and not make one single improvement to it? Would you just let it fall into disrepair? That is the state of our high school. Things like the science rooms are the exact same as the day the school opened. Think about it. Science has progressed a lot over the past 50 years and learning in classrooms that were designed for the science of 50 years ago is not easy. In addition, the technology rooms are simply too few and too small. To put it simply, Grand Island has outgrown its school and improvements need to be made. It is getting to the point that lack of improvement to the facilities over time is beginning to hinder education. An approved capitol project would alleviate all of this. As for the tax increase, sure your taxes will go up, but only like $15 or less per year. The increase in value to your home because the schools are better would more than make up for this. I also think that voting “no” because of such a small increase is just selfish and cheap. To those of you who are voting no because of the lack of emphasis on athletics, I would like to point out that considering the fields are grass they are not even bad compared to other schools. In fact, the grass fields are quite good. Sure an artificial turf field is not being put in, but lights will be put up so night games may be played and the bleachers will be built so the space underneath can be utilized for storage. An electronic baseball scoreboard would even be put up too. These improvements are just the tip of the iceberg in what could potentially be a great thing for Grand Island schools. All of the schools would be improved, not just the high school. So to all of you who are thinking about going out on November 17 from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. to vote the capital project down, just think about what you are doing. Are you voting “no” just because you can’t be bothered to vote “yes”? Are you voting “no” because you don’t have all the facts? Vote “yes” for better education. Vote “yes” for Grand Island.
Posted November 10, 2009
Thanks To Islanders During Car/Deer Accident - Nov. 2009
I want to thank a very nice lady who immediately stopped and stayed with me for 25 minutes, after I had a car vs. deer accident on Bedell Road - until the police arrived after. I also want to thank a man named Tim who lives on Stony Point Road for staying with me and offering to drive me home. I also want to thank Chuck Berlinger who stopped and offered medical attention to me. And lastly I want to thank my daughter, Danielle, for coming to take me home after my very scary experience."
Posted November 12, 2009
Island Pride - Nov. 2009
This year, Grand Island High School will send multiple sports teams to the Sectional finals. That's right - "the finals." Football, Soccer, and Volleyball. Many people have contributed to this success, parents, coaches, players and students. Grand Island thanks all of those who support these teams and go to the games regardless of weather or location. One of those Islanders who made a special effort was the Rom Figler family, not only for the display of our pride at the Town Hall Commons but for being sport fans at so many events for so many years. Their efforts and attendance were continuous. Thanks Figlers from the fans, coaches, parents and players. Your efforts have been a major contributor to Island Pride. Thank you.
The Town Commons display was donated by a Grand Island business, Asi Modelex.
See you at the games.
Sandy Beach Road
Posted November 10, 2009
GIHS Boys, Girls Soccer Teams Win NFL Regular Season Titles - 2009
Good Morning Teddy;
In regard to the boys and the girls varsity soccer teams, for the very first time, both teams have won the NFL regular season titles in the same year and I've confirmed this with Jon Roth, the GI Athletic Director. The GIHS boys and girls teams did both win the Section VI championships at the same time in 2003. We won't know if that feat will be duplicated till after Saturdays games.
The boys varsity soccer team won their semi final game versus Cheektowaga last night with a score of 3 - 1, and advance to the Section VI Class A finals game versus Williamsville South this Saturday. The game is scheduled for 3:00 pm at Amherst High School sports complex.
The girls varsity soccer team won their semi-final game versus Amherst yesterday afternoon with a score of 2 - 0, and advance to the Section VI Class A finals versus Williamsville East this Saturday. The game is scheduled for 1:00 PM at Amherst High Scholl sports complex.
Who would have thought that both of these teams would be playing for the Section VI Class Championship on the same day at the same field, so they can be there to support each other like they have for most of their soccer playing careers. Both the boys and girls varsity teams have roots that go back to their Grand Island Soccer Club travel team days, and they did that together as well. For a number of years, the boys and girls teams practiced and scrimmaged together during the travel years when they were coached by Brett Banker, Chris Hollander and myself. I believe it made them all better players, because they pushed each other so hard. The girls wanted to beat the boys in the worst way, and the boys didn't want to lose to the girls. These scrimmages and practices were as physical as any game they played in their league games, so they were very prepared to handle just about anything come game day. It's a great bunch of fine young men and women, who are a credit to their school, their community and to each other as friends.
Not to mention it seems to be a banner fall season for a lot of the GIHS sports teams. Besides the soccer teams, the varsity football team is playing for the Section VI championship Friday night at Ralph Wilson Stadium, The boys and girls varsity cross country teams won the NFL titles, and I think the girls tennis team may have won as well.
Posted November 5, 2009
$47 million Capital Project: School Board’s Latest Boondoggle - Oct. 2009
I’m sure most, if not all of us, are aware the New York State is broke. Creative Accounting is keeping the farce going. (It is as if no one wants to face the fact that old uncle Harry is dead: instead we prop him up, put on some rouge and lipstick, and pretend he’s only sleeping.) The Governor recognizes the problem and is trying to herd the cats in the legislature to do something about it, for which he will be defeated next year. He is recommending that school budgets be pared back, among other cutbacks. Keep in mind that NY along with other states has been able to ignore reality due to the influx of Federal money, which goes away after next year, at the latest. Grand Island schools are being targeted, by the governor’s mid-term reappraisal, with a $1MM+ decrease, a 6.6% reduction. This is one of the highest percentage decreases in Erie County. As I have noted before, Grand Island is considered an above average income community and, as such, will bear the brunt of cutbacks in Albany. This is Albany’s way, and that of its unions I might add: the rich can afford to shoulder more of the burden. Unfortunately, they are fleeing the State and, even worse, fewer are moving in.
Why do I mention this in an article whose title suggests it is about the capital project, you may ask? The School Board, Mr. Christmann, and Mrs. Ingrasci keep telling us that the $47MM project won’t cost us much, except, of course, for what they have already exacted from us (so they could save $.12 while costing us $10.00! see below.) The translation of this nonsense is that they won’t have to rattle a tin cup to raise the funds since Albany has already done the fleecing for them. The unfortunate fact is that this will cost us plenty. The State is cutting back, as it has to, on operating subsidies. Don’t kid yourself, State aid has peaked. Repeat after me: NY State is broke. The next round of cutbacks will be on capital projects. This is clearly the rational thing to do: everyone in the parallel universe known as the private sector does this. If funds were tight or not forthcoming the school systems would be forced to reassess their wish lists and make choices: the cruelty of it all. The Board has scheduled some tours of the high school and held a one-hour session to discuss the project. I haven’t gone on the tours as I am sure they are the Board’s equivalent to a Potemkin village. I also passed on the one-hour talk because it has been my experience that all they do is bloviate so there is no time for questions. (Donna Tomkins went and her experience is put forth in a Letter to the Editor at Isledegrande.com on October 22nd. I’m not alone.)
So, let me bring up my questions and concerns here. What are we getting for all of this money? Let’s take a look.
(these are taken from the district’s website):
1: Locker Rooms: Replace gym lockers and toilets
2: HVAC: Replace boilers and chimney, add classroom unit ventilators, add air conditioning to the auditorium, offices, event lobby, IT rooms, art and library media center
3: Fitness Room: Expand current fitness/weight room by 1,700 sq. ft.
4:Science Rooms: Construct state of the art science rooms including four new science prep rooms
• Add two soccer/lacrosse fields with portable bleachers
• Enhance varsity and JV baseball field
• Complete six lane track resurfacing
• Replace home bleachers with 750 seats, new press box and under bleacher storage
• Provide new, portable visitor bleachers
• Add field lighting and electrical power to outdoor facilities
• Add concession stand and electronic baseball scoreboard
• And more!
6: And more!
WRT #1) In a time long, long ago; 1999, to be exact, we approved an $18.4MM capital project that had repairing/replacing the gym lockers. It wasn’t done until at least 2003, if at all. What happened to that money?
WRT #2) In the 1999 project there was $2.145MM allocated and spent on an “award-winning” (the Board’s description) energy conservation system for the Ransom Road complex. This particular project is one that should cause everyone to be extremely skeptical of anything the Board or administration tells you. The taxpayers approved $18.4MM to be spent on a laundry list of projects: gym lockers, science, labs, HVAC, among others. A new gym wasn’t included (the “And More” version circa 1999) but it replaced the science labs. The district found out that the HVAC project could be funded under a capital lease, which meant they didn’t need voter approval. By doing so this freed up the $2.145MM under capital project approval to be spent on other things (remember, we didn’t get the science labs even though there was now an extra $2.145MM available). The state had some budget problems after 9/11 so they required all districts to refinance their lease projects, extending the maturity a couple of years to reduce the cash flow requirements on the State Treasury. In late 2002 or 2003, I forget which, the district refinanced the $2.145MM project. Since a year, or more, had passed since it was originally put on, one would think that some principal would have been paid down. Silly you! The district refinanced the lease for $2.3MM, giving them at least $155,000 additional dollars to play with. Let’s do the arithmetic: $18.4MM, that was voter-approved, was spent on the capital project plus an additional $300,000 they admitted to having to fund out of operating expenses, plus $2.3MM that they moved over to an operating lease. The grand total: $21MM, with no science labs, but another gym and an entranceway that is waste of money! By the way, the energy project lease runs until 2017, or so.
WRT #3) Why did we need this in the first place? It is now being proposed to be expanded by the size of most of the homes on Grand Island. If this was your money (actually, it is) would you do this?
WRT #4) The science rooms are probably needed since, as I noted above, they were surreptitiously excised from the last project in favor of weight rooms and a goofy entranceway, among other gems.
WRT #5) Does this one need any comment? The state is broke, which of course, means we are broke. Is any of this an appropriate expenditure of the taxpayers’ dollar?
WRT #6) My favorite. If one goes to the district’s web site and looks under the capital project, it breaks out the projects by school and facility. The last bullet point under each subcategory is: “And more”. What exactly does this mean and how much does “and more” add up to? This is where the District can take your money and spend it on whatever they want without really getting your approval.
Again, looking at the description of the projects, one sees a number of items that look suspiciously like repair and maintenance. You know, the type of stuff that one would pay for out of his/her normal budget as opposed to taking out a loan and financing it over many years. The EXCEL (FREE MONEY) capital project of a few years ago was almost totally comprised of repair and maintenance items. Why do they do this you ask? If they maintained the facilities on an ongoing basis, as they should, they would either have to raise local taxes or cut waste. They are unwilling to do either, even though eventually the taxpayer gets stuck. There is no free lunch.
There is another, new, boondoggle that the administration wants to inflict upon the taxpayer; that is, a program called the International Baccalaureate Program (IBP). Rather than have me describe this lulu, let me quote from an article by Thomas Sowell, Ph.D, a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford.
“Parents in Fairfax, Virginia, have succeeded in getting rid of one of the endless series of fad programs that distract American public schools from real education in real subjects. Like most fad programs, this one had a high-sounding name: The International Baccalaureate Curriculum. It also has a left-wing hidden agenda, as so many other fad programs do. One of the program's supporters gushed that it teaches students "how to think globally" and "how to make us part of the world." One of the parents critical of the program put it quite differently. She said it "promotes socialism, disarmament, radical environmentalism, and moral relativism, while attempting to undermine Christian religious values and national sovereignty."
Other districts have eliminated it because it is costly and has few students interested in it. I admit to having a jaundiced attitude towards nonsense of this sort as well as semesters abroad. They are means by which administrators get to go on junkets and to conferences, all at nice watering holes (ever hear of a conference at International Falls, MN. in winter?) at the taxpayers’ expense. I’m told that teachers are already going to conferences around the country, at $2,000 a pop, about this program even though it hasn’t been budgeted for yet. Good job, Board members. Not only do some of the capital expenditures relate to this boondoggle, but it will obligate us in increased operating expenses for ever.
At the very least, we deserve REAL answers to the following questions, and well before any vote takes place.
1. How much of the $47.3MM represents work that Ciminelli, the contractor, or Cannon would properly classify as repair and maintenance
2. How much is due to making the system IBP ‘compliant’; that is, if the IBP were shot down, how much spending wouldn’t be required?
3. How much of the money being spent on HVAC at the schools represents fixing the screw-ups from the “award-winning energy project of the $21MM , oops, $18.4MM, capital project?
4. What exactly are included in “and more?”
5. How much is being spent on the entranceway at the High School? How much was spent building the existing structure? Why is it necessary to do anything? If it is a safety problem, are we suing the people responsible for restitution?
6. How much will the IBP cost on an annual basis? How many students will be involved? How does that compare with other districts in the area such as Lewiston-Porter who dropped it due to cost and lack of interest.
7. We need to see a financial statement showing, by year, the specific sources of revenue to pay for it and all of the indebtedness that the taxpayers will be obligated for.
This is the minimum set of questions that we should expect forthright answers to before voting on this. If we don’t get them, we should vote no, regardless.
Their stewardship of our money has always been a sore point with me because they are either financially ignorant or intellectually dishonest. There is no free lunch. Grand Island taxpayers will bear the full cost of this project. It may come out of taxes and fees assessed directly by Albany instead of coming through our property taxes, but we will pay. Only East Aurora, Clarence, Williamsville, Amherst, and Iroquois had higher percentage reductions in proposed state aid. The state is legally obligated to shovel billions at NYC’s schools. With the budget situation in the state being of a secular, not a cyclical, nature, more cuts for well-to-do upstate districts can be expected.
One of the dirty little secrets is the capital reserve fund. They state that it has $5.38MM in it. This fund has been accumulating money for only the past two years. In essence, the district has over-taxed us $2.69MM each year. This is the only way it is going to cost an additional $9.75 per $100K of assessed value each year for the capital project. The $9.75 is the increment over the $2.69MM they are already taking from us. Why are they being allowed to accumulate these funds? The State Comptroller said it wasn’t sound practice. I know the Board disagrees with him. (I’d be happy to debate any member of the Board on this issue: any time, any place. I’ll do it sitting down, blindfolded, one arm tied behind my back, you name it.) The blunt truth is that this slush fund enables the board to get funds from people who don’t live here anymore and got a lower sales price for their home because of the higher taxes. The Board can spend it on goodies without having to confront the taxpayers with an apples to apples choice: is this project worth $X, not is it worth $X-$5.38MM and and all the continuing deposits into this fund.
By the way, this slush fund is money that you could spend paying down 6% or higher mortgage or 10% or higher credit card debt, thereby saving anywhere from $6 to $10 per hundred dollars. Instead, the district brags it has a high bond rating. They are saving about $.12 per hundred dollars because of it. Does this bit a financial wizardry make any sense to anyone, other than Mr. Christmann? I didn’t think so.
We, as taxpayers and homeowners, need to question the spending, taxing, and other activities of the Board and district. School taxes represent over 60% of our property taxes, and a large portion of our other taxes. They shouldn’t be given the benefit of the doubt because “they are doing it for the children” because they are not. New York can’t afford any more of these self-proclaimed sacred cows.
If you don’t get clear, concise answers that make sense from the Board on this issue then you should vote no on November 17th.
Posted October 29, 2009
Vote No to "New Capitol Project" Nov. 17th - 2009
Do we really need all of the improvements to the High School or is it a front for something else? They are not giving all of the details here and we as taxpayers have a right to know. Grand Island CSD has applied for an international Baccalaureate program for Grand Island High School. In order for Grand Island to be considered for an International Baccalaureate (IB) program in our school it needs to meet certain standards. Some of these are being done under the guise of the bond issue. During the summer it was determined that Grand Island High School was not equipped to run an IB program with the current classroom setups in the Science and Tech Depts., hence the new Capitol bond project. The Library media center upgrade is for IB standards, the science upgrades which should have been done with the last Capitol Project are for the IB standards. Computer on wheels are for the IB standards as I am to believe. They also want to redo the offices in the high school and that was already done in the last project. Also the amount of money already spent to train the numerous teachers for a program we do not have in place is unbelievable. Several went to Texas for a weekend of training and more to Rochester, all at our taxpayers' expense. There are several trips planned (a week in Florida in December) for IB training at a cost of $2000 per teacher of which several teachers will be attending all at our expense. OK, so how many children will benefit from this program? Maybe six per year, we don't really know because the district has not informed us of the program and all it will offer. I do know these are College courses. What ever happened to taking College courses in College? Don't we already offer Advanced Placement Courses? Lew-Port School District has tried this program and withdrew because it could not support it. Williamsville withdrew before it started because it was not cost effective. It seems to me we are being asked for money for one thing when truly there is another agenda in place. I think we as taxpayers need to say NO and get the work we have already paid for finished before we jump into something we cannot support. I may not have all of the facts but I am sure there is more to this Capitol Project that needs to be explored before we give anymore. There are also other things in this Capitol Project that are being done that are not being publicized because it is a repeat of work that has been done in the past. And now that Mr. Little who works for Cannon Design is on our school board they are suddenly very interested in doing work that in the past they had no interest in. In these economic times our money needs to be carefully guarded and our programs need to be geared toward all the students at Grand Island, not just a select few.
Posted October 27, 2009
Candidate Addresses Political Signs - October 2009
Hi. Ray Billica, candidate for Town Councilman with some thoughts about signs.
Well folks, I’ve just got to get this off my shoulders. This issue has bothered me for a long time, way before I decided to run for office. Why is it that some politicians seem to think we don’t mind all the signs they put up in locations they’re not allowed to place them? Specifically, you need to have permission from the property owner before you place your sign. Additionally, the shoulders of the road are owned by the agency in charge of that road and random placement along shoulders of the road should not be allowed.
Apparently there are some candidates who don’t follow this way of thinking. I have seen many signs by some of my opponents, and others, with signs placed in areas that permission has not been granted. Just in case you need a specific instance, the northeast corner of Stony Point and Whitehaven roads property owner does not allow any political signs on their property. But there are some there!!
I HAVE GOTTEN PERMISSION FROM THE PROPERTY OWNER FOR EVERY SIGN THAT I HAVE PLACED.
Some say, “Why don’t you just put up your sign next to the others?” I say, “NO!” Two wrongs don’t make a right. If that’s what I need to do to win, then I guess I won’t win.
So in closing, I’d like to request that all politicians remove their signs from properties for which permission hasn’t been granted.
Candidate for Town Councilman
Posted October 27, 2009
Thank You From the Russell Family - 2009
We would like to thank all of Rosanna's friends for standing by her with all the support, prayers, and love you had shown her. It really sustained her through her 2.5 year struggle with cancer.
The Russell family
Posted October 29, 2009
Rus Thompson Voices Questions on the Zelonis Court Case - 2009
I was just notified that the next court date is November 4th at 5:15 p.m., 2255 Baseline Rd. Grand Island, Judge Sybil Kennedy For proceedings. I have a couple questions. What is the final disposition of the Thruway Authorities disciplinary action? His hearing was supposed to be Oct 17th?