EDITOR TEDDY LINENFELSER
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Editor or addressed to: Letters to the Editor, 1871 Whitehaven Road, Grand Island, NY 14072
Back to the Future, Once Again - Dec. 2011Last week: Tuesday, December 20, to be exact; the voters on Grand Island overwhelmingly approved two capital project bond issues for the school district. Now that all of the glad-hands, high-fives, victory laps, etc. have taken place, let us examine just what we voted for and can expect to receive. Those who have read my columns previously know that I am totally skeptical about anything that emanates from the district offices. The eerie reminiscence to the 1999 capital project is disconcerting, to me, to say the least.
For those who remember the 1999 capital project, the parallels are disturbing. At that time, the board didn’t have specific plans, similar to today, to estimate costs although we were given to believe that what they showed us was what we were going to get. Silly us! When they finally did draw up specific plans and went out for bids, they were aghast. The lowest bid came in about 10% over their budget. They proceeded to lop off portions of the project – this is why the science rooms were chopped even though the third gym wasn’t – in order to stay within the budget. Even so, they wound up spending $21M, not the $18.4M that was approved, due to some financial legerdemain, obtaining a scaled-down project that has required fixes ever since.
Let’s look at the current project. The following comments were taken from the Wednesday, December 21st edition of the Buffalo News article regarding the passage of the bond issues and are very germane to my point: Superintendent Robert W. Christmann said Tuesday night that construction work on the projects is not likely to begin before spring 2013.
Architectural designs will have to be drawn up first, he said. The plans will be submitted to the state Education Department, which usually takes six months to approve projects. Then the project will be put out for bids.
The second proposition, which would not have been considered unless Proposition One was approved, involves a $4.6 million project to build a "state-of-the-art" athletic field, which could host sectional competition, and renovating the high school auditorium. It was passed by a vote of 1,362 to 516.
Am I the only one who noticed these sentences? First, we are told that construction won’t begin until Spring 2013. Why? Well, as we are told in the second sentence, we need to draw up architectural plans. It is, of course, perfectly reasonable and appropriate to have approved plans before one starts swinging hammers. I have some issues, though. First, given that we have had the capital reserve fund sitting there which is to be used for this project, anyway, why wasn’t it used to develop the architectural plans this past fall? We would have been ready to get State Education Department approval immediately, with construction starting when school lets out in June. Instead, this money sat there earning chump change in interest. This is sound financial management? Second, how could the district know the cost of the projects that we voted for if they didn’t have specific plans to work with; that is, how did they come up with such detailed figures? Third, any cost estimate today based on non-specific-plans for work to commence in eighteen months is a fairy tale.
So, we have approved a bond issue, once again, to pay for a project that the district doesn’t have any idea of what the true cost will be since they don’t have any specific plans upon which to have bids based. They are just hoping that their fudge factor will be big enough. Are we going to be informed, in advance, of any changes in the scope and the deliverables if the funds are inadequate? Remember that in 2013 the economy should be improving so that businesses won’t be offering bare-bones deals just to keep their doors open. Prices will have started to rise. Men and equipment may not be available when the district wants them.
The last sentence in the News article summarizes why NY State is in terminal decline. We are going to build a “state-of-the-art” athletic field (their quotes) that could (my italics) be used to host sectional competition. At best, we could get to do it once every 6-7 years or less often as there are other wasteful districts doing the same nonsense. Sectionals should be held at UB or Buff State; they are neutral grounds and the facilities are already there. Instead, we are going to spend all of this money to duplicate facilities that are superfluous, in the extreme.
In the real world; that is, where incompetence gets eliminated, this type of waste wouldn’t be tolerated. In the surreal world of government, it gets funded over and over again. The resources, though, have to come from somewhere. Governments do not create anything, they merely redistribute, so the resources have to be taken from the private sector. This is why NY has some of the highest property, income, and sales taxes, along with fees for everything, in the country. It explains why NY continues to lose representation in the Congress as it shrinks. Pretending that these projects are “free” or close to it because the property taxes won’t go up shows the extent to which the school district, along with many others, will go to continue its spending habit. The fact that the cost is hidden doesn’t reduce the cost. To the contrary, making something appear less expensive than it really is will cause the demand for it to increase, thereby causing the long-suffering taxpayer to have to shell out even more. Unfortunately, business formation in NY is meager; no large firm will set up shop here unless they are lavished with tax breaks; retirees flee; and the young look elsewhere. We are watching a slow-moving train wreck. Maybe the district can put up a giant screen at the “state-of-the-art” athletic fields so we can watch the final act together. Regardless, it looks like we bought a pig in the poke, again.
Posted December 29, 2011
A Message from Board of Education President Dave Goris - Dec. 2011The Grand Island Board of Education would like to thank the members of the Facilities Committee and community as well as the teachers, staff and administrators for their active participation in the capital project planning, and all who exercised their right to vote on the two propositions on December 20.
Both propositions passed overwhelmingly. We appreciate the trust you have put in us to deliver a quality project that will allow the Grand Island Central School District to continue to provide an excellent education for our students.
We will engage the community as plans for these projects are developed. A board workshop to begin the next phase of planning is scheduled for January 7 at 9 a.m. in the Middle School Little Theater.
Please check the district website for ongoing meeting times and regular updates on the project status. If you have any questions or concerns, we can be reached at email@example.com.
President – Grand Island Board of Education
Appreciation/Support Isledegrande.com - Dec. 2011Dear Teddy,
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you, Jodi, Reg, Travis and the Staff at Isledegrande.com.
Your service to the community is really the greatest. As a member of the Veterans organizations I appreciate the articles and notices you publish on behalf of the Veterans. In answer to the plea for help in keeping isledegrande.com on the internet, I have made some small donations in the past and intend to donate from time to time when finances allow. I wish there was a way to let the readers of the news of all the organizations who use your service know what it takes to gather and edit the many events that are covered in isledegrande.com.
I am a reader of the Buffalo News. The cost per year is $ 234.00, the Grand Island Dispatch is another $ 25.or so a year. The point is, the Isledegrande.com provides as much if not more at a cost to the readers of $0.00, And no matter where you are in the world you can get the news of Grand Island anytime day or night. Our troops who are aware of Isledegrande.com can check whenever they have computer time for local happenings. You can check on school reunions, what the garden club is doing, news of the various churches, clubs and other types of organizations. It's all on Isledegrande.com. Tell a friend about this great news service and consider making a donation large or small to keep it going. Your support is welcomed. Christmas is the time for giving.
Thank you Isledegrande.com
Posted December 22, 2011
Resident Questions Highway Dept. - Dec. 2011I would like a logical explanation from the Town Highway Department as to why they waited until a few weeks before the winter driving season to place crushed stone along the shoulders of Staley Road. Over a period of several days last month,Town Highway crews placed crushed gravel on the shoulder without properly compacting the stone. After last Friday's snowfall, snowplows clearing the road pushed most of the gravel off of the shoulder into residents' driveways and grass along the shoulder. Now residents using snow blowers to clear their driveways risk damaging their equipment and possible injury due to the stone being shot out of their snow blowers. When spring arrives, all of that stone and gravel will be piled up in the grass along the shoulder and residents will have to deal with the same issues when cutting their lawns; risking damage to their lawnmowers and potential injury from rocks being thrown out at high speed.
I also wonder about the cost of this work to Grand Island taxpayers. Basically, all the stone, material, labor, and equipment used for this project was a complete waste of money. It seems to me that this work should have been done earlier in the summer or in the spring allowing the gravel proper time to settle and compact and prevent these dangers.
Posted December 19, 2011
Thank You For UNICEF Response - Dec. 2011Thanks to the response of a few generous folks who saw the appeal to help us reach $2,000 for Trick-or-treat for UNICEF. Our new final total has reached $2,098.76. Thanks to all who contributed.
Posted December 19, 2011
Click Family Thank You - Dec. 2011The Click Family would like to express our appreciation to all of our friends and neighbors for being there in our time of need. We would also like to thank the Grand Island Fire Company and HOSPICE for their excellent service.
-The Click Family
Posted December 14, 2011
To Assess, or Not to Assess - Dec. 2011Grand Island is considering reassessing all properties next year with the goal of going to a 100% valuation. The State is encouraging all communities to do this. The stated purpose is to make assessments “fair” (my quotes). By fair is meant that everyone’s property will have been valued within the same time frame. For point of reference, the last town-wide assessment on Grand Island was in 1986. With the Seneca Indians lawsuit in the 1990s, 9/11 and the recent property value meltdown, the timing hadn’t been propitious to do another, to say the least.
TeaNewYork held a second informational meeting Monday evening, 12/12, at the Library on this issue. A point of confusion, similar to the previous session, was the distinction between tax base, tax rate, and total taxes. Simply put, total taxes (the tax levy or budget) equal the tax base (total assessed valuation) times the tax rate (typically expressed as dollars per thousand of assessed valuation). The tax rate is solved for by dividing the tax levy by the tax base. A doubling of the assessed valuation would cause the tax rate to be halved. The only way for one’s taxes to go up is if the Town Board raised the amount to be collected. That is a completely separate issue.
The town could go to full valuation, 100% assessed values, by multiplying the current assessment by 1/.465 = 2.15 (I believe that .465 is the ratio of our assessments to full value). This would solve the full valuation problem but wouldn’t address the “fairness” problem. The fairness issue arises because new homes, recently sold homes, and homes that have been improved, that is, obtained a building permit, have been assessed since 1986 and their values more closely approximate market values. Homes that are older, haven’t been sold or had any improvements done are assessed using the 1986 valuations. This creates a discrepancy in that the former’s share of the property tax burden is most likely higher than it would be if all properties were re-assessed. Again, it is important to keep in mind that the total taxes to be collected doesn’t change; just the distribution of who pays what. This all holds true whether or not the town goes to full value assessment or whether it keeps to the fractional system.
The question then is should the Town incur the expense of a total re-assessment? I think not. It is my view that the property tax system is irredeemably flawed. (See "Has the Property Tax Outlived its Usefulness?" at http://wnypoliticaleconomy.com/ or http://deepflies.wordpress.com/2010/03/) As such, I believe that we will just replace one set of problems for another, incurring the re-assessment expense for the privilege of doing so. Fairness is in the eyes of the beholder, of course. The issue of someone relocating from NYC, Chicago, SF, or DC and buying a home here is problematic. They could and would bid well above market for places they wanted and still think they had died and gone to real estate heaven compared to their former locales. They will distort the valuations and there is no way around it except to exclude them. Okay, but at what point does one stop excluding? It is necessarily arbitrary. There is the problem of our county taxes. Not all of the other communities have gone to full valuation or recent re-assessments. If we do and there are communities that haven’t, the re-assessment will increase our proportion of the county taxes paid by Grand Island.
Further, if the total assessed valuation in the county is now higher, they can spend more proclaiming that the tax rate is being held constant. This is true but again remember that total taxes equal assessed valuation times the tax rate. We will see spending creep up surreptitiously. Not a good thing. Over at the School Board, where we really vote on the tax rate implied by the budget we can expect to see total taxes collected go up. Further, when the revised rates are first introduced we will be subject to their shell game of: “the rates are now lower; that they have decreased X% from last year” (even though they should have decreased even further, if we were to have an apples-to-apples comparison).
In California where rising property values were pauperizing the middle class, they passed Proposition 13, officially named the People's Initiative to Limit Property Taxation, in 1978. The ballot measure set real estate property value for tax purposes at 1975–1976 market value, limited real estate taxes to 1 percent of that value, limited tax increases to 2 percent per year for continuing owners, provided for a full reassessed value base for new owners, required a two-thirds vote for legislative revenue increases, and made any local government tax increase dependent upon a two-thirds approval of the local voters. California is a notoriously high tax state but a comparison is instructive. A friend of mine sold his home in Buffalo, in the Delaware Park area, for $900,000 or so. He had been paying $20,000 in property taxes. He moved to California, bought a similarly priced home, and his property taxes are $5,000. What are we getting for all of the money the political class siphon from us? While we, on Grand Island, don’t have all of the safeguards that Proposition 13 provides, not re-assessing homes until they are sold comes close. Getting rid of re-assessments when someone improves their home should be instituted immediately.
I think that if the re-assessment was put to a vote, it would fail miserably, as I believe it should. I also believe that a vote to not re-assess when an improvement is done would pass overwhelmingly. It would also increase construction activity, helping employment in the area. If someone believes that their assessment is grossly unfair they can appeal it, as they should. Finally, as I wrote on those websites, the whole concept of property taxes needs to be completely rethought.
Posted December 13, 2011
The Latest “Free” Project - Dec. 2011I received the following email the other day:
So, I have been anxiously waiting for your take on the "new and improved" capital project. Do you have a positive feel for this because something must be done or the schools will fall apart? I'm really not in favor of some of the improvements. I feel a lot of it should have been addressed as repairs and maintenance. Has the state approved the entire project for funding? And the idea it won't raise taxes is absurd...how did they get that reserve fund to begin with? It will probably pass, but I'm tired of hearing "no cost to the taxpayer"
Needless to say, I DO have a take on this. It is not positive. This project could be classified as Exhibit A as to why New York is in its fiscal mess. If one looks through the flyer the district sent to us this past week about the project the reasons will become clear. At each of the grammar schools we see “exterior masonry restoration” as one of the line items. Rather than do this as part of ongoing repair and maintenance work the district waits until things are dire and includes them in a capital project. The State, I admit, encourages this nonsense because it reimburses (read: we pay for it from our state income taxes) the district 82% of the cost. The problem with this is that by letting things fester, they get much worse. As such, the total costs of fixing it are higher, possibly much higher. Again, we see replacing “select acoustical ceiling tiles.” We won’t replace a defective tile unless the district doesn’t have to raise the funds directly? You can’t make this up.
A writer recently advocated passing this proposition because, among other things, we don’t have Wi-Fi throughout the schools. Why do we want Wi-Fi throughout the schools? We already have internet access. Wi-Fi will just allow kids to play with their iPhones, iPads, etc. during class time, disrupting the classes. This is a pure waste of money.
I see that at Sidway “extensive heating system renovations” are to take place. Gee, I thought that our “award-winning” energy project of 2001 took care of this. We will be paying for that 2001 project for at least another five years, by the way.
There are some items that cause one to shake his head: adding smoke detectors at Sidway and replacing lighting in the high school classrooms, for instance. We only do these if we can get them funded via a capital project? This is management?
Proposition 2 has expenses that are superfluous in the extreme. Upgrading the sports fields to be able to host Section VI events shows the contempt these people have about our money. At best, we might get to host events once every 6-7 years. By the time we held them twice we would have to replace them due to deterioration with age. Why do we want to do it, then? So the administration can strut around at the handful of events?
Science department renovations make the list again. It is like Whack-a-Mole. They keep showing up in every proposal going back to 1999 when we first voted for them but they got shelved in favor of a third gym. This leads one to ask the question, “Why should we expect this time to be any different?” Once the funds have been approved, the district can “re-prioritize” its projects.
Further, the question of how much of these improvements are directly attributable to the superintendent’s pet project, The International Baccalaureate program, is pertinent. (I’m told that the teachers are opposed to this program but won’t speak out because of fear of retaliation and retribution by the superintendent. Maybe, just maybe, the board should do some investigating on their own.)
The flyer says that proposal #1 won’t increase our property taxes. This is true but only because they increased them years ago to amass their reserve fund. This reserve fund is the height of fiscal mismanagement. It collected taxes from people who no longer live here. The value of their homes was lower when they went to sell because of the unwarranted tax burden. Those of us still here see our tax dollars sitting in an account earning less than 1%, while we have auto, home, or credit card loans with interest rates ranging from 4% - 17%. The taxpayer has been made worse off so the district can make the phony, hollow claim that it won’t cost us anything more. (Does this capital project mean that the capital reserve fund is to be shut down, with no new tax revenue being used to replenish it? This is a question that deserves to be answered.)
The 1999 capital project was sold to the public on one basis and they proceeded to what they wanted instead. The total cost was $21 million, not the $18.4 million we approved. This was due to deliberate actions by the board and superintendent at the time, unbeknownst to the public (at least until I got involved). When the district last came to us with a capital project they attempted to mesmerize the people who came to their public information session by stating on one of their power point slides that because of the district’s financial acumen it had an Aaa, triple A, bond rating. This was a bald-faced lie. Elsewhere they had been crowing about how their rating had been raised to its highest level, A1, which is four notches below Aaa. They even lied about the savings the increase from A2 to A1 would save the taxpayer at a later session. These people should be kept on a very short leash. They do not spend OUR money wisely.
Posted December 8, 2011
The Importance of Deer Hunting - Dec. 2011Dear Mrs. Linenfelser,
I would like to convey my disdain for R. Vogel's sarcastic and exaggerated portrayal of Jim Nogel and the hunting community posted on December 1, 2011.
I can honestly respect an individual's decision to oppose hunting and will listen and debate the topic as any "mature" adult should but Mr. Vogel has taken his own convictions and spun them in such an acrimonious manor that it can only be perceived as emotional and uneducated banter.
What Mr. Vogel fails to realize is the entirety of the situation. He, and most animal rights activists, assume that if hunting and trapping be banned a magical force of nature will manifest itself within our ecosystem and will subjugate the inflation of the population of hunted species but that is not so. These animals, and many more of their kind, would die a horrible death due to starvation and disease subsequent to malnutrition, along with a substantial increase in deer vs. car collisions because the animal would travel a greater distance and take bigger risks to satiate their need for sustenance.
With said increases in the game population there would be added cost to the tax payer for mitigating factors to combat the diseases that would spread throughout the ecosystem and, most importantly, to all who live in our society; insurance increases. I wonder if Mr. Vogel had a collision with a large deer, bear or other legally hunted animal would he maintain the same sentiment if the collision took the life of his wife, child or grandchild or, less tragically, increased his coverage by $500 per year.
I am in no way naive enough to assert that hunting solely eliminates any negative circumstance involving the cohabitation with man and animal but I am confident enough to lament that hunting is the most economical way of ensuring the populations of many animals are kept at a healthy and sustainable number. In addition, hunters inject billions of dollars into this economy through license sales, ammunition and other incidentals such as gas, food, lodging and education. Hunters also reach out to the less fortunate, feed the hungry and attempt to instill good values in today's youth.
On a personal note, as G.I.H.S., former resident and current hunter, Grand Island is a hidden secret! The Island holds many large deer, a healthy rebound in wild turkey and fishing that is absolutely amazing. I am proud to say I sprouted my outdoor legs hunting rabbits, deer and squirrel on Staley Road and riding my bike to Blue Water Marine and Beaver Island to ice fish or simply stretch a line. As a matter of fact I plan on taking my 7-year-old son out for our first on hunt on Grand Island tomorrow afternoon.
I pray that the majority does not develop an affinity for Mr. Vogel's opinion because mankind has evolved due solely to the fact that we were able to feed ourselves with nature's bounty and yes we have left the barbaric ways of the past behind but hunting and fishing's place in modern society is a necessity as referenced above and most importantly a cohesive bond among men, women and children from all sorts of walks of life.
It may seem exaggerated to those who have never experienced the outdoors but it brings men together, it produces friendships, traditions and unyielding bonds. I wish to God I had a chance to hunt or fish with my grandfather again but I have three young boys and it is within them I will instill the same attitude passed down to me. Traditions of respect for nature, responsibility, compassion and most importantly love; love for a sport, be it fishing, hunting or trapping, that is truly a passion for us and one we all cherish and will defend to our dying day.
There is a very strong quote among the outdoor community; "Hunters were the first conservationists" and it is true!
Mr. Vogel and cohorts; had your opinion been the norm 200 years ago there would not have been a Thanksgiving.
GIHS Class of '93
Posted December 5, 2011
Resident Disagrees With Deer Hunting - Dec. 2011I just would like to thank Gary McDannel for pointing out that magnificent deer and telling us all where to find it so that Jim Nogle would know right where to go so he could immediately kill it. The Island is much better off now that that pest has been vanquished. I couldn't help but notice that the original photo was under a heading stating 'Lets show the world what a beautiful place the Island really is'. And a shoutout to Mr. Nogle as well...for helping promote that beauty of the Island. That beautiful animal has no doubt lived there for many years and has sired many beautiful offspring. I must admit that deer does look so peaceful now with those blank, dead eyes. I'm sure you'll now be enjoying looking into those same eyes as they look down on you as that head hangs from your wall. ...Good job guys...What's next on your kill list? ...that bald eagle?
PO Box 456
Lake Placid, Fla. 33862
Posted December 1, 2011
Resident Says Vote Yes On Dec. 20th - Nov. 2011Letter to the editor:
When my husband, (an Islander), suggested we buy a house on Grand Island, the first thing I did was Google how the school system is ranked and what the crime rate was.
Keep in mind those two things are the major reasons people move anywhere.
Our schools are starting to get tired. Our science wings aren’t sophisticated enough and we need more space for technology. The bones of some of the buildings need some work. For goodness sake, our schools don’t even have WIFI! If we don’t provide the best learning environment we can for the kids, how can we expect them to excel?
Most of you don’t know me, but I sat on a committee that advised the Board of Ed. on what the needs are at each school. We toured each school and made a list of priorities. Some of them haven’t been updated in thirty years! I know first-hand that our schools NEED some attention. I am asking you to vote YES! on December 20th for a two-part capital project to improve the quality of academics and life on Grand Island. For details on the proposed capital project, go to the district’s website at www.k12.ginet.org or find it on Facebook at www.facebook.com/gicapitalproject.
The better our school system, the more people move here, the higher our property values! Not to mention how it will benefit our kids and the future. Also, in my opinion, the proposed project will help deter drugs on Grand Island as well because the schools will be properly lit with adequate security to deter vandalism, drug use/deals and graffiti.
How can we expect our children to be respectful of their surroundings if we aren’t providing an educational environment that we can all be proud of?
Proposition 1 has no tax increase and if you vote “Yes” to both propositions and the project is passed, the rise in your taxes will be negligible. If you own a house valued at around $100,000, then your taxes will only increase $4.26 next year!!!! Shouldn’t we spend $5/year to give our kids a better educational environment? Check out the website or Facebook to see how the capital project will benefit all of our schools.
By the way, we did end up deciding to make Grand Island our permanent home almost eight years ago, have two children just starting in the school system, and we LOVE it here!
See you on December 20th!
Posted November 23, 2011
A Message from Board of Education President Dave GorisThe Grand Island Board of Education encourages you to take the opportunity to vote on a two-part capital project to improve the quality of academics and life on Grand Island. We, alongside many of our fellow community members, have spent hundreds of hours – including late nights and weekends – rigorously developing a thorough capital project that will truly benefit both our students and taxpayers.
When you vote on Dec. 20th, you will have the opportunity to vote on the two propositions as summarized below.
Proposition 1, at a total cost of approximately $47 million, will focus on addressing health and safety issues, maintaining and restoring our facilities to continue their service to our community, and improving the academics for students especially in science and technology areas. Each of our schools will receive improvements based on their individual need as well as direct input from students, staff, parents and community members.
Proposition 1 will have no increased tax impact to residents. This proposition will be paid for through a combination of state financial aid and the district’s capital project reserve fund.
Proposition 2, at a total cost of approximately $4.6 million, will focus on affording our students and the community a state-of-the-art athletic field and auditorium. Proposition 2 will have a 2/10 of 1 percent tax increase to residents.
You will have the option to vote for one or both of these propositions, but it is important to note that Proposition 2 cannot be passed without Proposition 1.
In addition, we have set aside $800,000 from our capital project reserve fund to pay for a much-needed new transportation center. This will be put to vote at a later date as we are still researching potential sites.
We encourage you to learn more about the capital project over the course of the next month. District administrators and school board members will be hosting public information sessions so that you can understand the full scope and impact of this critical project. For the most up-to-date information, please visit the district website at k12.ginet.org or visit our Facebook page at facebook.com/gicapitalproject.
Please vote on Dec. 20 as these propositions will impact not only our schools but the entire Grand Island community. Your consideration is appreciated.
Grand Island Board of Education
Posted November 18, 2011
Neighbors Foundation sees Tougher Times - Nov. 2011After several years of feeling that Grand Island was being spared the tough times that have dragged down Western NY and the country, the Neighbors Foundation now sees a much increased need for its help to Grand Islanders in temporary need. Whether local families have now exhausted their resources, or whether it is the shrinkage of government help services, our food and financial reserves are being depleted by recent increased calls for help. The Foundation is determined to continue the tradition of helping families in need at this 2011 Holiday Season with food and gift baskets, but earnestly asks the Grand Island community for extra support in our Holiday ‘Share Your Happiness’ fund drive through donations to P. O. Box 155, Grand Island, NY 14072. In addition, as the G I Schools and other groups have non-perishable food drives, increased generosity to those drives would greatly help those in need. The Neighbors Foundation is an all-volunteer charity with IRS 501c3 status helping Grand Island families (only) through their times of temporary, emergency need with food baskets and partial payments toward rent and utility bill payments where appropriate.
Henry G. Kammerer
Neighbors Foundation of Grand Island, Inc.
Posted November 17, 2011
Remembering American Legion Member Richard "Shorty" Vanthoff - Nov. 2011The Officers and members of the Grand Island Post #1346, American Legion are in sorrow, hearing of the passing of our Past Post Adjutant, Richard “Shorty’ Vanthoff. Shorty became involved with the Post in the early days of the Post’s reorganization. He volunteered his services to recruit new members and took the position of Post Adjutant. No one worked more diligently than Shorty to increase membership and promote the Post. He was always thinking of ways to better the American Legion on the Island. Those who remember, the summer picnics he held at his home when we all had a great day of comradeship and relaxation. Shorty was an "IDEA MAN." One of his best was the “Mothers Day Flower Sale," which helped the Post get on its feet. The funds raised are used to help needy Veterans, scholarships and a host of other charitable causes. Whenever a memorial, veterans affair or community service needed help, Shorty was there, His fellow Veterans will miss him greatly. He upheld the Motto of the American Legion, "For God and Country." The Good Lord will have a special spot among his Family, Friends, (of which there are many) and his fellow Veterans. We will long remember our Friend and Comrade, Richard “Shorty “Vanthoff.
Our Sympathies and condolences are extended to the family
Fred Wornick, Commander
Joseph Synakowski, 1st Vice Commander 716-773-4180.
Posted November 17, 2011
Councilman Roesch Thanks Voters - Nov. 2011To the Grand Island community;
Thank you for re-electing me as your Councilman.
My commitment was and is:
Being accessible to the community; understanding the issues, listening and responding to concerns in a timely fashion and being honest with the responses even though it may not be what the residents want to hear.
My thanks and gratitude also to my campaign committee who has advised and worked with me for the past six months. These are Republicans, Conservatives, Democrats and Independence party members. Bottom line with the committee is we all have the ability to work towards a common goal, the betterment of Grand Island and using me as their representative.
I am honored to be able to represent you once again.
My congratulations to all who were elected on Tuesday.
Posted November 10, 2011
The Burning of Local Political Signs - Nov. 2011In this political season, Grand Island is on fire. That is, political signs are on fire. It is my understanding that gasoline was used. Someone could have been seriously injured. The fire company has turned the investigation over to the sheriff’s department.
To add insult to injury, last night, at the very same location, on private property, signs that were replaced from the fire were stolen. Imagine my dismay; they are all Republican and Conservative signs. How embarrassing, in the entire county where there are hot races, Grand Island makes the news for an arson, over politics.
This is a big deal, setting a fire is a felony. The signs are the private property of the parties involved and they were on private property. Burning them is an infringement of the freedom of speech. While this has never happened before, I hope this is not our future. I would hate to think that when someone disagrees with someone else’s point of view, they would decide to set the Island ablaze. Then we will need a full time fire company. The behavior is no better than felons in the Cities of Buffalo and Niagara Falls.
The offenders must have been disgruntled liberals in a destructive mood or pyromaniacs. Whoever did this should be ashamed. While we don’t all agree on every issue, we should all agree on the freedom of speech and the respect for personal property. To that end, the Grand Island Republican Party and Candidates Mary Cooke, Dick Crawford, Gary Roesch, Patty Frentzel are issuing a $500 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the fire.
I hope you all go out and vote. Please don’t bring a torch, your fingers will do.
Debora Michaux, Republican Party Chairperson
Posted November 10, 2011
The Silly Season Gets Even Sillier - Nov. 20112001 is one of the worst years imaginable. No, it isn't that the Yankees fell flat once again in October or that the economy is still in the sewer, it is that Election Day is the latest that it can legally be. This means we are tormented that much longer with vacuous pieces of paper, TV ads, or robo-calls imploring us to vote for (whomever).
Normally, I go into hibernation about now with a good book, Sabres' games, or the World Series, as this plague descends upon the long-suffering populace. However, this year the inanity reached heights not seen since the heydays of Chuckie Swanick and Bill Pauley. I am compelled to respond, to save my sanity if nothing else.
By now, all Island residents, including headstones and pets, have received numerous fliers from one Jeremy Zellner; he being the Democratic candidate for the Erie County Legislature. His sole, as far as I can discern, rationale for us to vote for him is that he is going to be a full-time legislator. Huh??! It is a part-time position. It should be a no-time position but more on that later. Bill Pauley, an original RINO in Amherst if there ever was one, decided being a full-time politician beat doing whatever it was that he did. He did the job full-time, as did Swanick starting a few years later. In his case, it beat working on the railroad (I would have picked the RR.) There are serious consequences to having these folks unilaterally declare these part-time slots full-time ones. They have to justify their existence. As such, they will spend our money trying to make us feel better. As Alexis de Tocqueville said, "The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money." One can substitute Erie County Legislature for Congress and the quote loses none of its vitality. If it is full-time a couple of things happen: the incumbent's private sector skills atrophy, making it harder to become employable there as time goes on; and he/she will want pay and benefit raises. Once one is elected it becomes a necessity to be re-elected. Please re-read de Tocqueville's quote for the explanation of what will transpire.
Not only don't I believe that the legislator's position should be full-time, I believe it should be eliminated entirely along with that of the County Executive. The county should revert to the Board of Supervisors system. We are already paying for these guys. They don't have any incentive to squander our money on doofus projects that are nothing but bribes as de Tocqueville so succinctly puts it. We would eliminate a whole layer of totally unproductive government. (How come Kevin Gaughan never thought of this?) If we can't in the near-term eliminate the county government structure, let's keep it as minimal as possible.
Posted November 3, 2011
Sex Offenders - No Town Ordinance - September 2011Did you know that Grand Island, NY currently has no town ordinance restricting where a sex offender can live. With no Town ordinance in place, the only restriction is the state law that states that a level 2 or level 3 sex offender cannot live within 1000 feet of a school. Which means that a convicted child molester can move next door to a playground, daycare center, or public park in Grand Island and they would not be breaking any law. Please read the petition and put a link to it on your site. I have been in contact with Supervisor McMahon and he has been very responsive.
This petition will be used to help pass a Town ordinance similar to the ones in Amherst, Tonawanda, and many other safe communities in the area. The petition may be found at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/gi_safe/
Posted September 15, 2011
Miracle League at Veteran's Park Heroes Commended- September 2011 I have just come home from the most exciting, touching and inspirational baseball game I have ever attended. I am talking about the Miracle League at Veteran's Park. The people who made this happen are true heroes to all of our children whether they have a challenge or not. Everyone came together today to put smiles on kids faces and made them shine. The Sabres and all of the helpers were so great with the children and made the day even more special. I just want to thank everyone who is involved with this ball field and helping the dreams of the kids come true. Thank you and God bless all of you.
Posted September 1, 2011, 2011
Chamber Directors Cruise - August 2011 The Grand Island Chamber of Commerce Directors Cruise aboard the Grand Lady was held on August 4th and fun was definitely had by all! The Directors Cruise is a special event held each year as a thank you from the Chamber and Chamber President Eric Fiebelkorn to the Directors for their time and dedication for serving on the board over the past year and to the local businesses that have sponsored one of our community events or made some donation to the Chamber throughout the past year.
Without our local businesses stepping up and sponsoring 'Citizen of the Year' or the Island Happenings/KidBiz/ business Expo we couldn't run these events for our community. So once again THANK YOU!
If anyone would like to view photos taken aboard the Directors Cruise or from this year's Island Happenings, just visit the Chamber's website at www.gichamber.org and look at the Chamber Events Page.
Posted August 25, 2011
Grand Island Bicyclists - Again - August 2011 Just a quick response to Mr. Kris Neumann comments on bicycle riders on West River Pkwy. I believe we have enough government involvement in our lives, these people are adults and pay tax to NY & GI and as long as they are riding safely on the roads let's not concern ourselves. I don't believe they are ignorant for riding a bike on the road. I assume also you have taken a road test and know how to tap your horn and move around these folks, (ignorant) as you say in a safe manner. Let's keep gov't out of our business and let's all use a little common sense and get along. Just my 2 cents.
Posted August 18, 2011
Grand Island Bicyclists - August 2011 Being a Grand Island resident, we all have most likely seen the groups of bicyclists that cruise around the perimeter of the Island for exercise or sport. I personally think that it is a great way to stay in shape and also enjoy the river views.
However, from a safety point of view, I have been driving on West River Parkway and had numerous cyclists actually riding on the 55 mph area instead of the 30 mph residential road. There are road signs that specifically state 'pedestrian and bicycling traffic prohibited' on the Parkway section. Now this seems like common sense since there are curbs and absolutely no shoulders on the two lane parkway section. I personally don’t want to be responsible for injuring or killing a cyclist or another driver because two cars and a bike cannot all pass by each other at the same time on the parkway. Every time that I have seen this, the bicycists are adults, which leads me to think that at some time in their lives they have passed a drivers road test and know how to read road signs. If you were a kite enthusiast, you would not attempt to fly your favorite box kite at the airport on the runway, right? So why would someone risk their own life on a prohibited roadway? The ignorance of a few should not be the problem of the rest of us. Let’s all try to use common sense and be safe out there. Just my 2 cents.
Posted August 11, 2011
We have 29 Republican governors, the rest Democrat. We need 34 states to force this. All we need is to start pushing this. The federal government is out of control and has to be reigned in and now is the time! In recent polling over 70% of the American People are for a balanced budget. Right now there is movement within the halls of Congress to do this, I/we feel is just another form of appeasement to the people and will once again get pushed aside as real reforms have in the past. We have to get away from baseline budgeting start with a zero balance and work from there. Proposed cuts in the recent Bill are simply cuts in the rate of growth. I fully expect a lowering of this country's credit rating due to the simple fact that congress and the president refuse to get their fiscal house in order.
It is time to act, it is time for the people to demand that the governors step up and reign in the federal government. The governors need to propose to the legislatures of the state to support a resolution calling on congress to pass a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.
Posted August 4, 2011
Kids Help Autism Support Group
Melissa Ueblacker would be so proud of her niece and nephew - July 2011
Children raise money for the Grand Island Autism Support Group - from left are Jacob Spencer, Kaylee Conta, Joshua Conta, and Lindsey Spencer.
Many of you remember Melissa's heart breaking story. She passed away on Sept. 25th, 2009 at the too early age of 26. She died of the condition called Encephalitis. Melissa is survived by her two autistic children, Angelina (now age 5) & Thomas (now age 4).
Last week, with the help of her children's cousins and their BFF's, the children were able to raise money for The Grand Island Autism Support Group by selling lemonade for .25 cents per cup.
Dozens of Island residents had the opportunity to stop at their stand that was set up on the corner of Woodstock Drive at Baseline Road. After a handful of hours, along with a few extremely generous donors, the five youngsters raised $120.00.
Melissa's son Thomas, niece Kaylee Conta, 11, nephew Joshua Conta, 9, and their neighbor's Lindsey Spencer, 13, and Jacob Spencer, 11, adorned their lemonade stand with a sign encouraging passersby to enjoy a cool drink in support of the developmental disorder that grips both Angelina and Thomas Ueblacker. And without hesitation, with the help of Melissa's sister (Kaylee & Joshua's mom Jennifer Ueblacker Conta) they delivered a donation check to Grand Island's RealtyUSA office where parents and professionals that are faced with Autism can meet once a month to exchange information and to support to each other.
Co-creators and Island residents Denise Hjalmarson and Vienna Laurendi Haak couldn't be more flattered by the children's donation to their support group. Their group includes families from on and off the Island, and they provide support to folks that are affected with Autism as well as other developmental disorders.
The Grand Island Autism Support Group meets on the 1st Tuesday of each month at 6:30pm at 2139 Grand Island Blvd, across from TOPS. Please contact Denise at firstname.lastname@example.org, Vienna at email@example.com, or visit their facebook page at www.facebook.com/GrandIslandNYSupportGroup for more information.
Vienna Laurendi Haak
Posted July 13, 2011
A BIG THANK YOU to all the individuals and businesses that donated items or monetary gifts to our Relay for Life Team MOOSE-kateers. With the generous giving from family, friends, community members and businesses we went over our goal of $10,000. Our team members are also to be thanked for their time and effort to make this year such a success for our team! We have a big appreciation for all of you and you know who you are!!
MOOSE-kateers Give Their Thanks - July 2011
Lynn Dingey - Captain
Nancy Anderson - Co-Captain
Posted July 14, 2011
Fantasy Island Fireworks & Parking Situation - July 2011
Last night (July 4), about 9 PM, our family went to the plaza to watch the annual Fantasy Island fireworks, which usually begin about 10 PM. The lot was very crowded, with cars in the lot, behind the stores, out on the street behind the plaza and at Sidway. Driving into the parking lot, we saw pickup trucks parked across 2 and 3 parking spots, and mobile homes parked across 4 or 5 spots. I asked one person to move his mobile home to allow 2 other people to park and was told they “were already sitting”, had arrived there at 6 PM to park and if I wanted to be “last minute”, too bad! Anyone who spends 4 hours in a parking lot to watch later fireworks needs to get a life. Some of these inconsiderate ignorant people became belligerent – one guy told us to “get back to Amherst where we belong”. Huh??? Too bad Grand Island can’t control parking for these selfish slobs and allow more people to enjoy the fireworks. Last night was our final time attending the fireworks. No one needs that aggravation and rudeness. That makes one more available parking spot.
Posted July 7, 2011
As an almost lifelong resident of Staley Road it has now become apparent our way of life is forever changed. While I appreciate the businesses on the west end of our street, the toll it has taken on the residents of Staley Road is very sad. We are now living on one of the busiest streets on Grand Island. Aside from the employees of these two facilities, some with no mufflers on their cars, throwing garbage out their windows, blaring their stereos, and very loud motorcycles, we deal with landscaping trucks, small package delivery trucks and semi trucks making deliveries all day and night long. We were assured these deliveries would be made between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. however that is not the case. These trucks drive by all day and night. The companies run 3 shifts. There is never a “lull” in traffic any time of the day or night. The speed limit is 45 mph however the police patrol the street randomly and each and every time they pull people over. During the times of shift changes cars frequently pass other cars and on the narrow street it puts anyone near the road even waiting to cross to get their mail in jeopardy. Most of these employees have little regard for the residents. They do not slow down if you are at your mail box nor do they move over when they clearly are able to if you are on the side of the road. If you are driving the speed limit they will tailgate you, and if you are pulling into your driveway they will floor it and drive past you.
Tired of the Traffic - June 2011
One of the facilities has now gone “smoke free on campus”. This means that employees may not smoke on their grounds, yet they can walk 10 feet away and smoke on the street in groups and toss their butts on the side of our road. It’s very discouraging to drive by and see them all standing there. Why can’t the companies put a designated area on their own grounds where these people can stand and smoke and use a trash can. They should not be driving down the street pulling over on the shoulder of the road or standing in groups on the side of the road smoking. It makes our street appear to be a ghetto for lack of a better word.
Weekends when there are smaller shifts the traffic is made up from test drivers from a car dealer both days. This past weekend over a 2-hour period we had 7 test drivers speeding down the road. Again, these people have no regard for the residents. They pull into the driveways to turn around regardless of children playing hockey in the driveway, they pull into the vacant building on the street to examine their car or switch drivers, blare the radios, test the “take off” power and skid to halts at times. Again, I appreciate this business is doing well in this economy but they should be referring their drivers to the 190 to drive 55 mph, not a route around the block to test the car out.
We can no longer safely walk on the shoulder of our road. There is no more horseback riding, bicycling, or taking a family walk to the river that can be done safely at any time.
Now we are expanding again at a facility which has brought dump truck traffic at a very high volume all day on the weekends. This addition may take 2 years and will add 90 more employees/cars to the street. I’d love to have a volume test taken as these trucks are loud, and the faster they drive by the louder they are, also showering the road with dirt and debris that flies out of the back as they go. They also have no regard for the residents, flying by or tailgating them if they are driving the speed limit.
Our houses were purchased on this street because of the quality of life it offers. That quality is now gone.
Posted June 30, 2011
It is our pleasure to thank all who donated to the Disabled American Veterans recent “Forget Me Not Drive“. It is heartwarming to know there are so many kind, generous citizens who donated to our fund raiser to help our Veterans. The funds collected will assist the Veterans at the Vets Hospital, The DAV Transportation Network and other Veterans' needs. It also will help various Community Projects, and other local charitable projects. A yearly High School Scholarship is given.
Thank You From DAV - June 2011
We thank the workers who donated their time to distribute the “Forget Me Not“ flowers. Thank you all!!!
The Officers and Members of the Disabled American Veterans, Grand Island Chapter #168
Posted May 23, 2011
You can’t make this stuff up. It is unbelievable that the board or he could make these statements with a straight face. Many people have the option to take any bonuses they may receive in the form of deferred income; that is, they only pay the social security and Medicare taxes on the amount which is then placed in some sort of investment vehicle until retirement, typically. Under Mr. Christmann and the board’s reasoning, this bonus wouldn’t count as a pay increase since it wasn’t received immediately. I’m sure the rest of us recognize a pay increase when we see one.
Years ago when I worked in Chicago we had the option of buying/selling vacation days. We could buy an additional week’s time for, essentially, 2% of our salary, or you could sell back a week’s worth for, again, 2% of one’s salary. Does the board and Mr. Christmann seriously believe that granting him another week’s vacation is not equivalent to a pay increase? Two percent of his pay is $3,000. He is doing less work so that is a cost to the district unless he wasn’t doing anything anyway. If he wasn’t, why shouldn’t we be reducing his pay?
Given their presentation to the community in March, 2010, I recognize that there is a problem with financial concepts at the district. They need to look up the concept of “present value.” The board is allowing Mr. Christmann to realize the value, at his last wage rate, of his unused sick days upon retirement. To start with, this is not something that the private sector does. While he doesn’t get a check today, every unused sick day this year increases his income. The enhanced health care benefits have a value, also. With the new accounting regulations, I believe these benefits have to be carried as a liability on the district’s balance sheet. Are the board and Mr. Christmann suggesting that they have zero value? Of course they aren’t. This is just another example of off-loading today’s expenses onto a future generation.
The second point was the June 8th Buffalo News column about the athletic director’s wish list. What planet are these people from? He wants ‘exterior signs and acoustics in the pool. “You can’t understand anything that’s going on during a swim meet,” he said.’ What does he want to hear, the sound of water splashing? He also wants a larger parking lot behind the high school to better accommodate baseball crowds. On the one hand government officials and others are lamenting the increase in obesity. Now we have an athletic director, no less, wanting to reduce the minimal exercise one would get from walking from the front of the high school to the back. The taxpayers would get the privilege of funding this, I’ve saved the best for last. It was reported that ‘Recent trips to Hamburg and Lewiston-Porter, both of which have unveiled redone facilities in the past couple of years, highlighted the need to improve the Grand Island district’s facilities for greater user ease and increase the district’s ability to host sectional events, he said. “People are doing things all around us, and we’ve got to keep up,” he said.’ “We’ve got to keep up” or what? Will we have a mine shaft gap? Gimme a break. If other schools have already wasted taxpayer money doing these things how often does he think Grand Island will get to host these events? If you figure out the cost on a per time basis it gets even more outrageous. A rational approach would be for the schools to work with UB or Buff State who already have quite nice taxpayer-funded facilities and use them. It would be less expensive and eliminate any home field advantage.
Why have all of these desired athletic field capital improvements come to light you may ask. Mr. Christmann and Mr. Little want the other capital boondoggle that we’ve already turned down to pass without change. By adding in the athletic piece they hope to get enough additional support to shove the whole mess through. Trust me; these folks are Machiavellian to the core.
NY State is still broke. It ranks 50th in business climate; that is, it is the worst in the country. If the property tax cap gets passed school districts, in particular, will have to spend their limited funds more wisely. Nothing in either of these two articles suggests that the board or Mr. Christmann understand this or have any desire to.
Posted May 22, 2011
Last Tuesday (June 7), I received a call that every parent dreds getting. I was told our daughter was hurt and that I needed to get to the High School as soon as possible. When I got there, I saw my daughter laying on the stage, crying, surrounded by a group of very caring individuals. As fast as my heart was racing when I got there, I immediately felt some calm as these caring people explained to me what had happened and at the same time, stayed with Jenna keeping her calm. I cannot express how truly thankful I am to each and everyone of them for comforting Jenna and taking care of her until I was able to get there. To the Grand Island Fire Company and Rescue Squad, Greg Butcher, Dave Khreis, Town Police, Athletic Trainer Jeff Green, the most loving and caring teacher a student could have, Cathy Thomas, of Miss Cathy's Dance Studio and her students, teachers and parents, her sister Emily who never left Jenna's side and to anyone I have forgotten, her father and I truly thank you from the bottom of our hearts. To everyone who has sent Jenna well wishes, again we thank you. Jenna sends her love to everyone and promises to be on stage next year with all her dance friends.
Most Appreciative Parents - June 2011
With much appreciation,
Becky and Rich Stufkosky
Posted June 14, 2011
2011 Grand Island Relay For Life “Curtain up for a CURE” had several blessings, start to finish, Friday, June 3rd, starting with a blue cloudless sky. Within 24 hours we saw the little "Island of Hope" transform into a village of celebration. The committee worker “bee”lievers first on the scene, Daneen Gallagher, JT Tomkins, & Kevin Hagen (logistics) along with Linda Tufillaro start to place the tents, stage, tables, cans, & lights. Rosemary Hajnos & Marietta Rotella (entertainment) clean sweep the area for the performers, and the kids zone. Organize theevent schedule, games and rules for Cat Bruch to do in the wee hours of the night. Cat also assisted our announcing “master” Doug Bruch & Jim Noe (owner of UFOUNDASOUND). This was Doug's 9th year of donated service to the relay. Deb Bota (survivior registration) set up her tent to reunite with the Survivors that have received her hand-made invitations, and to secure information for next year recipients with the same grace. Sue & Eric Berger along with Kathy Smith, Mary & Jane Cooke decorate to pamper the Survivors, and let’s not forget the Birthday/Celebration cake from Neil Buyer too. Brite Ideas Bonnie & Liz Sciuk set up the Relay Store with Island of Hope memorabilia that produces funds towards our goal of ending cancer in our lifetime.
Relay For Life Thank You - June 2011
The “bank” RV, courtesy of Cindy Wynne & family, makes a nice work area for Candise Mye and crew of Diane D, Sharilyn G, & Betty Lantz. Liz Wilbert and Barbara Custodi (registration) make ready for the multitude to greet with open arms(no bees please). Peter McMahon, Deb & Josh Billica, police, our volunteer Fire Co & EMT’s all in place. Lisa Dudley with groups of youth assembling, decorating, & distributing those lovely LUMINARIA. Again this year, Becky Sommer-Stufkosky organized the “canned” food drive to secure the luminaria for the night, which were donated to our Neighbor Foundation(aprox. 1100 cans). Rene Gugino everywhere you looked helping someone. Kim & Scott Kalman w/Jodi Robinson and deSignet jewelry crew arranging baskets. Dennis Donovan firing up the grill for AnnMarie Salviski & Kathy Kraft (not only APP business). Dan McBride teamed up with Becky Sommer-Stufkosky showing us how to sell and be Super Survivor too. I think I witnessed our online/onsite information Queen Lynn Dingey dancing with a purple Moose on the track, getting it all clear for the gates to open for out proud teams & participants.
What an expression of compassion each and every one of you show not just the Survivors (which many of you are) but to their families & friends as well! I hope the opening ceremony worked out well leaving the Survivors in the comfort and care of your tent. I feel Donna-mom-Cameron did a great job speaking for our Honorary Survivor Ian-choochoo-Cameron. Doesn’t his smile just melt your heart! Being with all of you and witnessing first hand all the gifts that we share, reaffirms WE are making a difference, WE are leaving a trail, WE are making the world a better place together, WE are the Island of Hope. Love leaves a memory no one can steal!!! A special thank you to Ted & Rosie Weselak for organizing the Prayer Tent again this year and for every year since Grand Island Relay began, and those are some of the best cookies I have ever had.
When the morning light came, we had the help of the Crazy Cancer Crushers to pack up the canned goods during the take down of those lovely luminarias. The boy scout troop 630 from St Stephens came for the final sweep and presto back to normal & clean as a whistle. Thanks again for all working together. It was an amazing block party and I am just so proud to live here with all of you - you make my life so rich and make me who I am.
God Bless you all.
Mary A Dunbar-Daluisio, co-chair of our Relay
Posted June 9, 2011
I wanted to remind people of the importance of keeping your dogs on leashes and/or at home. This Memorial weekend was one of the saddest my daughter has had to live through as she had to witness two large dogs, a German Shepard and a Rottweiler, kill her beloved Ragdoll cat, Lynx. While Lynx was very petite in size she had a big heart and wasn't afraid of much. We have never seen these two dogs in our neighborhood before but they have left a hurtful scar forever. From our guess, our little Lynx went to check out these large creatures and was trampled by them as they barked and growled at her. The cries for help she let out ring in our ears daily and there was nothing we could do to save her tiny soul. I am so very thankful that they did not harm myself or my kids but now I have to deal with the loss of a very loved pet and the deep sadness my daughter is feeling and the continual questions of why.
Unleashed Dogs Kill Beloved Pet - June 2011
Please, keep an eye on your dogs. You may never know what they have been up to when they are out running about but we will never forget this past Saturday.
Posted June 1, 2011
I would like to bring to the attention of Grand Islanders with finished basement walls, floors or both. The Fairway Greens Association of River Oaks Board of Directors is requiring that every home owner must have an egress window in their basement if there are floors, or walls. Yes, it is true that there is a law on the town books since 1985 that says that finished basements must have an egress window 5x5. But it is up to the Town to enforce the law, not the Association. There have been at least 10 town houses sold with finished basements, according to the real estate listings, including the house of the builder, over the past year in this development. None of them were required to put in an egress window. One resident who is moving has been singled out by the Board to be harassed. To cover that up, Bob DeGlopper, Sal Page, Neil O’Donnell, Tom Maulucci, Mary Sommer, Dennis Macro and property manager Susan Moynihan from Clover Management (688-4503) have decided to become an arm of the Town Government. They have become Big Brother. That is not what they were elected to do. Their job is to manage a budget and make sure that the exterior of the Town Houses look clean and uniform.
Basements and Egress Windows - May 2011
I am warning all other Grand Island residents that this overstepping of authority will set a precedent, and everyone on Grand Island will be forced to put an egress window in their home or they will not be able to sell it. This will have to be done to be fair to all residents. The owners of Fairway Greens cannot be singled out from the rest of the property owners on Grand Island. The Inspections department will have to go street by street to check for finished basements. Thousands of Grand Island residents will be affected by this action of this Board. Residents take notice, these people are up for election.
Posted May 23, 2011
Vote and you shall receive.
Common Sense Coalition Thanks You - May 2011
On May 17, you sent a powerful message to Grand Island residents, teachers, administrators and students. We heard it loud and clear. You want change. You deserve change. You demand change.
The seven candidates running proved that. The increase in voters proved that. Most importantly, your votes proved that.
You overwhelmingly elected three candidates committed to using Common Sense as they carry out their school board responsibilities. We are humbled and proud.
It’s no secret. We face difficult years ahead. We will challenge and be challenged. It won’t be easy. But, we are ready.
We know this much: Cooperation and civil communication between taxpayers, teachers and the school board will be critical. We can achieve that.
We promote accountability and transparency. We listen to all stakeholders. We respond to questions and concerns. We strive to provide appropriate programs for students. We practice fiscal responsibility.
That’s why you elected us. Simply put, thank you. Sincerely,
Tak Nobumoto, Emily Ciraolo & Joan Droit
Posted May 19, 2011
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Neal and Fran Seaman for all of their significant leadership and involvement with education on Grand Island, as well as their other volunteer and professional activities. They both have given tirelessly of themselves to our youth. I met them when our sons were in cub scouts together, and count myself blessed for our time together over the years. They have raised three wonderful young men, one who is currently in college, one who is graduating from GIHS this year and one who will still be in GIHS next year. They are a wonderful family and good neighbors in our community. Additionally, Neal serves our country through his work at the Niagara Falls Air Base. Thank you for all you do for our community and our country. May God bless you and your family with the best of health and happiness.
Response To Recent Letter - May 2011
I would also like to respond to Neal’s recent letter to the Isle DeGrande, posted on May 11, 2011, and provide some additional information to the editor.
I voted for Neal each time he ran for the Grand Island School Board in the past. I have the utmost respect for him. I was really surprised and disappointed when, as an incumbent, he lost the election the last time, garnering the fewest number of votes. When one of the elected Board members passed away, Neal was appointed to fill his shoes. As much as I personally prefer Neal, one would have thought that one of the other unelected candidates who had earned more votes would have been appointed instead. I believe the results of that election were more about a lack of confidence in the leadership, particularly the superintendent. I do not personally believe it was specifically directed at Neal. Clearly the Grand Island voters were supporting the schools by passing the budget. I continue to urge voters to support our schools by voting to pass the school budget this year too.
I was never blessed to have Miss Droit as a teacher, but I have sincerely enjoyed our morning conversations at McMahon’s Family Restaurant, where I met her approximately nine years ago. From observing her interactions with customers, to being on the Zonta Club of Grand Island, it is clear that she is a respected and valued member of the community. Many of our conversations have been about the GI school district and educational issues. I am very glad she is running for GI School Board, and endorse her candidacy. I plan to vote for her, and hope that her outcome is better than Neal’s was last time. She is a RETIRED teacher, and has been retired for approximately 13 years. She is very involved in town committees, and other volunteer efforts, including the Miracle League, to benefit the Grand Island community, as well as peace in the world.
At one point during this election season, Miss Droit and I were going to both run for School Board together. I was with Miss Droit when she hand delivered her letter of resignation for the Benefit Trust. This was done before obtaining her petition for the school board and before she was interviewed by the GITA for potential endorsement. She wanted to ensure that there would be no conflict of interest when running for the school board.
If one wants to talk about conflict of interest, maybe we should take a look at the incumbent Mr. Rich Little who works for Cannon, a local architecture firm on Grand Island. Although Mr. Little says that he doesn’t directly work on Cannon projects for Grand Island Schools, he certainly does benefit financially when his company awards bonuses based on profits. Although I do not know the other candidates on her slate personally, I trust Miss Droit’s judgment and choice to be willing to collaborate with them. The combined slate, which uses the slogan COMMON SENSE, seems to be well balanced. Miss Droit brings the perspective of the senior citizens, Mr. Tak Nobomuto the perspective of a person in the prime of his career, and Ms. Ciraolo, a lifelong resident of Grand Island, the perspective of person in the early stages of her career. I believe this breadth of age, diversity, family status and experience these candidates bring as a group will enhance Grand Island’s school board. I plan to vote for Miss Droit, Ms. Ciraolo and Mr. Nobomuto in the upcoming election. I hope I can encourage others to do so too.
I would like to comment on the reason why I seriously considered running for school board. It is my understanding that the current school budget and school board policy is to eliminate some of the existing alternatives for special education. The decision seems to involve the return all special education students from placements at schools like Falk and Niagara Academy back to Grand Island. The rationale has been given as budgetary. Given the lack of openness by the School Board on this matter, it is not clear how the board plans to accommodate the return of these special needs students to Grand Island in a safe and educationally appropriate manner. As a parent of a child who once had medical necessity to attend a school like this, I am appalled at this decision. It is not as simple as bringing special needs students back to Grand Island, and we will save all of this money. Maybe adequate planning has been done, but the School Board has not clearly indicated what those plans are at this time. I have a hard time believing that this policy and budgetary decision will ultimately result in significant cost savings, much less any cost savings. There is a reason schools like Falk and Niagara Academy exist. They are staffed by professionals who know how to deal with the needs of the students assigned to their schools in a cost effective and professional manner. No parent, much less the school district, willingly seeks to have a child to go to one of those schools. It is only when the child’s needs are clearly evident and such placement is necessary, that any consideration is made in this regard.
I have the utmost respect for the professionals in the Grand Island schools who helped when my child’s placement was medically necessary, and the ultimate return and successful reintegration in Grand Island Schools when it was no longer necessary. My heart and prayers go out to all parents of special needs children as they struggle to find the appropriate accommodations for their children. Grand Island has done a great job in the past dealing with each child as an individual based on his or her own needs. I understand budget constraints, on many different levels. However, this change in policy appears to be ill conceived. I hope Grand Island can continue to be reasonable and judicious in the use of appropriate placements, where necessary, as it has in the past.
Since my child is also very bright and has benefitted from advanced educational opportunities, please allow me to address one of my other concerns. Given a choice between the International Baccalaureate and special education requirements like Falk or Niagara Academy, I would take the latter. The former is “nice to have, but not need to have” and the latter is only selected when academically and medically appropriate for a child.
Yes, we absolutely need to take the needs of our gifted students into account. However, the IB program does not add anything significant over the Advanced Placement program or the collaborations with local colleges for offering college credit in high school, both of which have been working well with limited impact on the school budget. I would recommend expanding GIHS’s relationship with local colleges to increase opportunities for Grand Island students to take real college courses while in high school (which will not add to the Grand Island school budget) as opposed to making significant investments in the IB program (for a limited return of benefit). Thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts. Remember to vote in our School Board elections on Tuesday May 17.
Barbara Ann Sherman, Ph.D.
Posted May 16, 2011
I also encourage all citizens to exercise their right to research and demand factual information and based on this information vote for the representation that will serve in the best interest of the Children of Grand Island as well as the Taxpayers. So in an effort to quickly respond please see the following:
Mr. Allen St. Blaise, thank you for your summary of the Comptrollers report. However a great amount of information is elaborated without fact and or merit. In regards to “reasonable budgets”, this statement has been made about almost every School District in NYS, even though we meet the guidelines as established by the Comptroller himself. Our reserves have been established as per State Law and are being used to help maintain a low tax increase while still maintaining the standard of education the Children of Grand Island deserve. This information is discussed regularly and openly at Board of Education (BOE) meetings and in the Local media. Again, the BOE has over the most recent years established reserves under the guidelines as set and encouraged by our State Comptroller. We also carry a fund balance that provides the necessary monies needed to start the next school year without the need to borrow money while waiting for funding. This again is repeatedly discussed openly and regularly at many meetings. These reserves and fund balance have established Grand Island Central Schools as a successful and financially sound business affording this community great value as far as a real estate market and when we need to borrow monies as necessary to operate.
As for the state of our buildings, this is one of the reasons I first ran for appointment. I have continued to stress the lack of maintaining the buildings we as taxpayers are responsible to care for. We continue as a BOE to reach to the tax base to stress the need and importance of a need for capital improvements. There is a tremendous Committee established to undertake the enormous task of assessing the needs of our buildings. This committee’s representative body includes BOE members (not me) as well as community members, parents, teachers, administrators, professionals and more. Again, this process is ongoing and reviewed regularly at BOE meetings.
Then there is my place of employment. Yes, years back I accepted a position at Cannon Design. This information was as described by law disclosed prior to my last successful run. My employment, as well as your other items stated has been audited by the State Comptroller’s office. The report indicates no conflict of interest and only reiterates the steps regularly taken to maintain separation. So as stated by Mr. Blaise please take the time to read the reports learn the facts come to meetings and be involved. Additionally I would like to encourage that we maintain and respect the Viking Values we expect our children adhere to; be Respectful, be Responsible and be Safe. We need to respect each other. Have civil debate. Resist the temptation to spread rumor including statements that do not include names of sources. By the lack of source, the statement is therefore rumor. We need to set aside personal and special interest agendas and or vendettas. The Children of Grand Island must continue to be the focus and priority of Grand Island CSD and the community of Grand Island. We must provide the best and most advanced academic environment for them to learn. As always it is and will continue to be a sensitive balance as to Children’s educational needs and the cost to the local taxpayers. I am proud of what I have been a part of for the last six years. The facts stand. Our district continues to excel, we offer more opportunities and programs to provide the basis of our children’s futures. We have been fiscally responsible continuing to be far below the average increases of districts in Erie County and state wide. Please avail yourselves of the facts, look at past track records do not fall to the special interest propaganda. Challenge the statements; dig to find what the real issue and or hidden agenda may be. Grand Island BOE is no place for this, the Grand Island students and community deserve better.
As you may see this is more that I wanted to write and there is much more, it would take volumes. I hope I have addressed a few. I am always available for discussion. I have and will always base my decisions on research, data and professional educators that are the most qualified to make the recommendations. I thank the Community of Grand Island for the opportunity to represent you for the past six years and would appreciate the opportunity to continue doings so. Please make your decision on May 17 an educated and responsible one.
Richard J. Little Jr.
Posted May 16, 2011
In Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal there is an op-ed article by Joel Klein: Scenes From the New York Education Wars. Mr. Klein is a former Chancellor of the NY City school system. This article was adapted from one in The Atlantic. I encourage everyone to read it. It shows among other things how the teachers’ union crushes any opposition and cows others into meek compliance with their wishes. Given the push by the GITA to get a veto-proof majority, if you will, it is quite likely we will witness the same results here. Be careful of what you wish for, you may get it.
I read with amusement Mr. St. Blaise’s article. Not that I disagreed with it, but I have been saying the same thing for ten years. It is, unfortunately, worse than he portrays. Mr. Christmann and Little have blatantly lied to the public on at least two occasions: the Oct. 2009 slideshow about the capital project where they said we had a AAA bond rating. We don’t and never have had one. It had been raised to A1 by Moody’s in 2008. The second time was the 2010 budget presentation where they said, again on one of their slides, that the improved bond rating (to A1, so they knew that the AAA was a lie) meant that they would save 10 basis points on their borrowing costs, or $100,000 on a $1 million issue over 15 years. For those who aren’t aware, and they assumed no one would be, a basis point is 1/100 of 1 percent. Ten basis points is a 1/10 of a percent. On $1 million this amounts to $1,000. At most, $15,000 could be saved, but with typical sinking fund amortization of the bond the savings would be $8,000. Clearly, $100,000 sounds much better than $8,000.
I could go on but if one is interested in more, go to: http://wnypoliticaleconomy.com/ and click on education, scroll to the bottom, and weep your way up.
My conclusion: Mr. Little and Mrs. Blair should not be re-elected nor should Ms. Droit be elected. We need to have individuals who aren’t beholden to any group. For the other two who took the endorsement of the GITA be careful that you didn’t make a Faustian bargain.
Posted May 16, 2011
Candidate Responds To Seaman Letter - May 2011Dear Editor:
I have been made aware of Neal Seaman's letter on the Isle DeGrande.Yes, I have been endorsed by the GITA. I do wish Neal had done a little more research so that his insinuation about my involvement with GITA would have been accurate. Indeed, in 1992 when in negotiations, the Board requested GITA to establish a Trust, I was appointed chairman. I held that position until my resignation this spring.
The Benefit Trust relieved the district of the clerical expense of dealing with dental, vision and life insurance. Since 1992, we trustees have been able to contain costs and adjust benefits to fit the demographics of our membership. The trustees are not paid. And personally, I have made fewer claims than almost any other member. In 1998 when I retired from teaching, I was no longer covered by any life insurance policy.
I had written earlier that my concern that the lack of candor and civility on the part of the board awakened my interest in serving. I made the decision to run with the encouragement of town citizens, none of whom are teachers. Had Neal approached me, I would have told him. I did not think it was relevant.
Joan A. Droit
Posted May 3, 2011
Voters Should Read NYS Comptroller Div. Report - May 2011Dear Editor,
I encourage all Island residents to exercise their right to vote for three Grand Island School Board trustees on Tuesday May 17. Grand Island school taxes now account for 68% of our total property tax burden, so we need school board trustees we can actually trust to wisely spend tax appropriated money.
Before voting, every Island taxpayer should read a report prepared by the NYS Comptroller Division of Local Government & School Accountability that is titled "Grand Island Central School District Internal Controls over Financial Condition and Potential Conflict of Interest." The report can be viewed at the Comptroller's website here:
The executive summary clearly states:
"District officials did not prepare reasonable budgets for the 2004-05 through the 2007-08 fiscal years. They consistently overestimated expenditures and underestimated revenues, even though data was often available to develop more accurate budget estimates. As a result of these practices, the District generated general fund operating surpluses totaling $12 million during a four-year period. A consistent pattern of year-end surpluses indicates that budget estimates have been inaccurate. Consequently, real property taxes may have been unnecessarily increased. While the District appropriates approximately $2 million in fund balance each year, it is not used as intended because the District’s budgetary practices have consistently resulted in operating surpluses during the last four fiscal years... Had these practices not occurred, real property taxes could have been lower."
Who were these district officials who prepared unreasonable budgets, consistently overestimated expenses while underestimating tax revenues, and unlawfully accumulated a $12 million surplus that falsely inflated our property taxes? They include school board president Richard Little and Myrna Blair who now seek re-election to the school board. They also include Neil Seaman who recently whined in this very column that school board candidates need "to show transparency highlighting...accountability," which is just what Seaman neglected to do as trustee.
Richard Little and Myrna Blair are also the same school trustees who have neglected the district's buildings with such abandon that they formed a "facility committee" to consider how to spend upwards of $50 million to repair building's that have all sorts of health and safety concerns including crumbling walls and foundations, inoperable windows, dysfunctional ventilation, and outdated wiring. Part of that potential $50 million budget , estimated by the school board in 2009 to be around $12 million, would go into a grade reconfiguration the board is considering that would move second-grade students out of Huth and Kaegebein schools and over to Sidway school. In the process, Huth and Kaegebein would end up with vacant classrooms (approximately six rooms at Huth), while new classrooms, auditorium and a library would have to be built at Sidway. This $50 million expenditure would be the largest single capital project to date for the district, and would occur over the next several years.
Ironically, school board president Richard Little cannot legally represent taxpayers regarding the capital expenditure. Why? Because the school board selected Cannon Design as its architect, and Richard Little is a Cannon employee. Also worth noting is the fact that school superintendent Robert Christmann had a $53,000 business relationship with Cannon Design's chief grade K-12 architect, Hans, Kullercupp, who Christmann purchased land from and they now live together side-by-side as neighbors. if taxpayers approve the capital referendum to fix our neglected and crumbling school buildings, Cannon will be paid a percentage fee, rather than a flat fee, worth millions of dollars. Since Cannon Design has an employee profit sharing plan, school board president Richard Little along with his boss Hans Kullercupp stand to potentially receive a bonus that will be paid in part on the backs of Grand Island taxpayers.
The NYS Comptroller stated in his report about the Grand Island school district that "Board members are held to a higher ethical standard and must be mindful to avoid any appearance of impropriety in order to preserve the trust of the community they serve." The Comptroller does not have the power to remove corrupt public offices, but voters do. I encourage Grand Island residents to vote for school board trustees on Tuesday May 17 who have the common sense to be fiscally responsible and ethical as our elected representatives.
Allen St. Blaise
Posted May 12, 2011
Live By Stated Principles - May 2011Dear Editor,
As a member of this year’s Common Sense slate for the Board of Education I believe it is important that we continue to live by our stated principles. One of those principles is that of transparency.
As individuals, we have chosen to work together to represent all eligible voters and taxpayers which includes teachers, administrators, seniors and conservatives just to mention a few. So while we have support from teachers, they are only a part of the fabric of residents whose input the School Board will need in order to make the best decisions possible. The benefit will be for the entire community as a whole.
Personally, my decision to run for a School Board seat was made prior to the endorsement from any specific group, although I am grateful for everyone’s support. My priority is to represent my fellow residents and taxpayers in the best way that I can.
Posted May 12, 2011
Blankets For Japan - May 2011We would like to thank everyone who have given so generously of their time, talent, and monetary donations!! Mary Haggerty and Kaegebein School have generously donated blanket kits that each classroom is completing. Mrs. Michki and her choral students presented a wonderful concert which included Asian themed music and works of art from the students. They mentioned our project during their evening performance and the generous parents of Kaegebein donated over $200 to purchase additional kits and towards shipping costs!!! Kerri Nowak and Huth Road School have also offered their support with donations of kits and their time and talent in completing them. At the Middle School, the Girls Club is helping in the collection and making of blankets and at the High School the Interact Club has generously offered to donate kits as well. We are also pleased to say we now know exactly where these gifts will go. There are two previously closed schools, in our family’s city of Hiroshima, that are being re-opened as boarding-type schools to accommodate students who have lost their school or home or both! The blankets will be personally delivered to these needy children! If anyone would like to add to our collection you can drop the kits, completed or not, to any of the above mentioned schools. Once again, an enormous THANK YOU to everyone who is supporting this endeavor. Just another reason to love Grand Island!!
Posted May 12, 2011
Vote for Common Sense - May 2011Dear Editor,
Follow last year's election. Continue to elect members with Common Sense to the Grand Island Board of Education.
That includes me.
I plan to fill a void. The board lacks communication and transparency. I observed, listened and voiced my concerns at board meetings. I received opinions rather than factual answers. The superintendent and some board members came across defensive and rude.
That's not good enough for me.
A school board's primary function is to provide a system of checks and balances to ensure funds are spent to benefit the majority of students in the most effective ways - and do so with respect to taxpayers. That requires sound research.
The board should not alienate the public. It should listen to residents, and gather information and facts to support their decisions. That can be done through online surveys, for example. Residents deserve to voice their opinions, ask questions and receive answers without the fear of backlash or rude responses. Residents deserve to know the facts.
Examine the International Baccalaureate (IB) program. Residents, including taxpayers, teachers, parents and students, expressed concerns. Now is not the time to implement new, costly programs. We are in the midst of a financial crisis like many other districts around the state.
The superintendent and board ignored community concerns. They reiterate that the IB program will provide critical thinking skills that Advanced Placement (AP) classes do not. They remind residents to ask questions, learn the facts and to ignore gossip.
I asked a simple question. How much?
The superintendent failed to provide me and taxpayers with a comprehensive IB budget breakdown. Costs, such as teacher training, are hidden deep within the budget. According to the superintendent, there are no costs to train teachers contradictory to research I've done and, in fact, what one board member told me. That board member repeatedly expressed concerns and did not receive answers. Pay attention: A board member was not privy to that information.
The board should act as the front lines of communication to residents. Instead, they are not even provided with the necessary tools to effectively carry out their responsibilities.
That's not good enough for me.
I'm poised and committed. I'm proud of my hometown. I'm not afraid to ask questions or challenge decisions. I set goals and achieve them. I lead - not follow. My resume proves that. Read it online at CommonSenseGISB.com.
Vote for me. The answers "because I can" or "people wanted it" aren't answers. They're opinions. They aren't good enough for me, and they shouldn't be good enough for you. Vote for Common Sense.
Emily L. Ciraolo
Posted May 12, 2011
American Legion Most Appreciative - May 2011
(left standing) Gary Roesch, Jack Burns, Henry Ensminger and Allen Prame; (seated) George DeGlopper
The Grand Island Post #1346, American Legion thanks the Isledegrande.com, the Grand Island Dispatch & Penny Saver and the Metro Source for the notices of the Annual Plant Sale. We also thank the many friends of the Legion allowed posting of the flyers at their clubs and places of business. We thank the many friends who purchased the hanging Basket Plants. We know you will be satisfied with the quality of the plants. The annual fund raiser was a great success and the funds help us support the many Veterans projects, the Veterans Hospital, Homeless Veterans, High School Scholarships, Neighbors Foundation and other local projects.
We thank the Pfc. Charles N. DeGlopper Memorial Post #9249 Veterans of Foreign Wars for the use of their grounds to conduct the sale. Their cooperation is greatly appreciated.
The Officers and Members of The Grand Island Post # 1346.
Posted May 12, 2011
School Board Trustee Speaks Out - May 2011Dear Editor,
The following comments are my own and do not represent the GI School Board. As a soon to be former school board member, my appointment ends May 17th, I’ve been asked by several people if the large school board election signs advertising a “Common Sense Slate” represent the Grand Island Teacher’s Union favored candidates. Based on the election last year I’d have to say yes, and they are probably already measuring for new window treatments when they move in. At the risk of tweaking the union leadership and more likely being accused of anti-teacher feelings (nothing is further from the truth) I would like to see some “transparency” in the Common Sense platform. I’m positive that the three common sense candidates are sincere in their desire to serve, and will have the added benefit of their names affixed to the GITA election postcards mailed to every WNY public school employee residing on the island. Unless you belong to that invitation only category you’ll most likely never know who the union endorses. But a tipoff would be those election signs planted on Grand Island yards, including at least one teacher who is a school building union representative. Of course it is everyone’s right to support any candidate they want, but it’s a good indication if your name is not on the sign then said teacher is not in your corner.
Ms Droit, in addition to her commendable civic involvement, is a retired Grand Island teacher with a continuing involvement in a union related capacity. I assume I’m correct in the following point, since information is rather hard to find and the union does not share their business with me. Appointed by the union president as 2010-2011 Chairperson of the Grand Island Teacher’s Benefit Trust, Ms Droit oversees a health and welfare reimbursement account for district teachers and retirees. It is funded annually with district dollars, completely separate from any GITA accounts, per a 1994 negotiated contract.
If I were running for a school board trustee position I would certainly want people to know that I oversee an account that receives $164,000 in public funds each year. I would want to show transparency highlighting my accountability to the teachers who utilize these funds for dental and eyesight healthcare costs. This is not something to overlook or be shy about. As a trustee you’re responsible for making financial decisions involving much more than $164,000. The Grand Island public would certainly want to know about my past or current management of taxpayer dollars. In my opinion that is common sense.
The Common Sense Slate wants voters to continue the process started last year with that election of two new members. There must be something to gain if you garner a majority of the board seats; all you need is 4 out of 7. In a time of less revenue resulting in spending reductions, it would be natural to seek a more compliant school board that may be sympathetic to the way dollars are spent. That is important if you want more of those scarce dollars to go toward your salary and benefits. This is what a union is supposed to do for the membership, follow the money. And if newly elected board members don’t see things your way? There is always next year’s election!
Common sense would suggest that the union and the district work together due to the near certainty of financial austerity in the next few years. Common sense from the union perspective has, and will be, the school district and board doing only what the union deems necessary to benefit the union. Is this common sense for you, the Grand Island taxpayer?
GI BOE Trustee
Posted May 12, 2011
School Board Candidate Night - May 2011It would have been great to see every seat filled at the school board’s candidate night. Printed bios are accessible, but there’s nothing like hearing the impromptu answers to the questions submitted to the candidates. All seven candidates adhered to ideals like the children being the most important consideration, and making the best use of taxpayers’ money, but after that things got more interesting. Four of the group seemed willing to think independently, and to consider whether the district is really on the best course. Two main issues which were discussed were the IB program and the moving of the second graders from Huth Road and Kaegebein Schools to Sidway, which would necessitate new construction.
Joan Droit stressed the need to focus on the difference between “need to have” and “nice to have” in meeting the needs of all our students. She is an ardent supporter of the AP program without tacked on and expensive IB classes, but is equally concerned about special needs students.
Tak Nobumotu questioned new construction at Sidway, especially any added-on items such as new district offices. Tak amused the audience with his comment that his basement office was just fine. I have heard since this event that current research does not support the idea that the proposed grade regrouping has any academic benefit.
Brian Chapin wants to preserve for our current students the excellent opportunities afforded his daughters who graduated from Grand Island High School, especially the AP program. Our local colleges consider AP, not IB, to be the gold standard. Brian also would not support a construction program that was not truly needed.
Emily Ciraolo seems to be in basic agreement with the above candidates. All of these candidates maintain that there is a need for more open and civil discourse between the district and the taxpayers.
We voters are fortunate to have the chance to vote for great candidates in this election.
Posted May 12, 2011
Resident Promotes Bingo On The Island - May 2011Dear Editor,
I was wondering why there is no BINGO on Grand Island. With gas prices as high as they are, it would be so nice not to have to travel to another town. Don't any of the organizations on the Island need money? Many people love BINGO and it is great fun especially in the winter months. It is a great outing bringing neighbors together and I think the Island could use a little more social functions where neighbors can get to know neighbors.
Has there ever been BINGO on the Island? Any Historians have a record of it ever being on Grand Island? I am surprised the Catholic Church doesn’t host a BINGO night. I have been here 21 years and never heard of any organizations hosting BINGO.
Yes, it can be costly but it can be cheaper than a movie and a night out for young and old.
Any thoughts and input would be appreciated. I am just curious.
Editor's note - Town Historian/Editor Teddy Linenfelser:
Over the past 60 years there have been places to play Bingo including Bedell House Park in the 1940s, the Fire Hall in the 1950s, and the Knights of Columbus Hall (1960-1985). Bingo was put to a vote with voting in the town hall in the summer of 1958. The outcome was 196 to 146 in favor of allowing the game to be played at the Fire Company's annual firemen's picnic. The voting was brought about by some church leaders opposed to bingo on the grounds that is was gambling and therefore immoral.
Supervisor Peter McMahon offered the following: Bingo is still legal. In fact, St. Stephen's Church used to have bingo. It then moved to the K of C. The Town Clerk still issues permits and does investigations for people who are going to work bingo or other gaming events. My guess is that lotteries, scratch off lottery tickets, legal gambling in clubs and casinos are the issue.
Posted May 5, 2011
Candidate For School Board - May 2011Dear Editor:
I recently announced that I am a candidate for the Grand Island School Board. I have been asked, "Why now?" and "Is it true that you are part of a slate?"
The answer to the second question is "YES!"
The morning I submitted my biography in District Office, staff members were drawing the numbers for the placement of candidates on the voting machines. One other candidate was present. When the drawing for ballot placement was completed, we left together. On the walk to the parking lot we introduced ourselves and had a pleasant conversation. His name is Tak Nobumoto. Tak told me about a young woman he knows who is also a candidate for the Grand Island School Board. Her name is Emily Ciraolo. He asked if I would like to meet her, and I said, "Yes." Two nights later, we met for coffee.
I was, and am, impressed by both candidates. We are in agreement on the most pressing issues facing the Grand Island School District. We met again. At our second meeting, we agreed to run our campaigns together on a common slate.
At a recent public meeting, Richard Little said there were rumors flying around the town and that the public should come to the school board meetings to check them out. Both Emily and I had asked questions at past School Board meetings, and had received either no response, or an inadequate response to our queries. In our opinion, the communication between school board leaders (both elected and employed) and the public is comparatively nonexistent, except for the publication The Bridge. We have also found the climate at School Board meetings to lack civility.
The three of us agree that our concerns include: providing an appropriate program for each student; establishing responsive communication with the public; and crafting the School District budget on a "need to have," rather than a "nice to have" basis.
Obviously there are other issues, but there is not enough space here to develop them. Our slate has created a web site, www.CommonSenseGISB.com, and we each have our own Facebook page.
Returning to the first question, "Why now?" My impetus to seek a seat on the Grand Island School Board resulted from a request from a man I respect, and from comments made to me by Grand Island graduates who are seriously debating if Grand Island schools are as fine as they were when these alumni attended.
I have always cared about our town and our schools. I am committed to work to assure excellence at all levels of Grand Island schools.
I hope to see you on election day, which is Tuesday, May 17, at the high school. The polls are open from 10 A.M. to 9 P.M.
Joan A. Droit
Posted May 3, 2011
Blankets For Japan - April 2011As we all have seen, the effects of March 11th's devastating Earthquake, Tsunami and Nuclear situation in Japan have been heartbreaking to watch and for those of us with families living there it has made us feel incredibly anxious for their safety and left us with a feeling of helplessness.
Fortunately, all of our family members are safe at the moment and have not experienced any damage or injuries.
I would like to make a request to the community to donate the fleece blanket kits that you find at JoAnn’s and other craft stores either completed or not. With the use of coupons, these can be purchased for $10-$15. We will then send them to a family member in Japan who is a doctor and would be able to forward them to the shelters for the children. These blankets can be used not only out of necessity for warmth but also as a security blanket for what must be very frightened children. Because of the wide range of designs and sizes, they can be utilized for infants right up through teens and beyond.
We would also be appreciative for a sponsor or monetary donations to cover the shipping of the blankets to Japan.
Collection bins will be at each of the following school buildings: Huth, Kaegebein, Connor Middle School and the High School.
The collection will run until Friday, May 20th
As we know you are all aware, Grand Island is an immensely generous community and we do think we could make a substantial donation to these children.
The Nobumoto Family
Posted April 28, 2011
American Legion Expresses Appreciation - April 2011
The Grand Island Post #1346, American Legion, will hold its Annual Mothers Day Plant Sale on Friday, May 6th and Saturday, May 7, 2011. We thank the Pfc. Charles N. DeGlopper Post 9249, Veterans of Foreign Wars, for the use of their grounds to conduct this event. Plants are locally grown and many varieties will be available. Sale hours are from 9 a.m. until sold out or 6 p.m. In past years we have sold out earlier, so we urge you to get your pick EARLY.
The officers and members of the Grand Island American Legion thank you for your support. The funds derived from this event are used to help our Veterans in need, the Veterans Hospital (VAMC), High School Scholarships, Community projects (Neighbors Foundation, Little League, Miracle Field, and others.) The Post Color Guard participates in; Memorial Day, Independence Day Parade, 9-11, Veterans Day and Pearl Harbor Day Services.
Posted April 27, 2011
Cuomo Accepts US Taxpayer Bailout Leaving Devastating 2012 $15 billion dollar Deficit - April 2011
A funny thing happened during all the recent state run media celebration over the “responsible” Cuomo budget. The media chose not to ask the basic questions and instead chose to report exactly what the State asked them to report. The state run media alleged that Cuomo cut spending by approximately 2.7% or approximately $3.6 Billion dollars. Let the celebrations begin right – as per the media we just solved the $10 billion deficit problem.
Timeout $3.6 billion erases a $10 billion deficit – hmmm anyone else curious other than me how we arrive at that math. The answer is that rather than choosing responsible cuts Cuomo chose to accept a 1 time bailout by United States taxpayers of $6.4 billion dollars. Cuomo did not erase the $10 billion deficit. Cuomo actually chose not to address a majority of the out of control spending and instead chose to accept a one time US Taxpayer funded bailout through miss-use of the Obama stimulus funds.
The questions the media failed to ask are:
1). How was Cuomo able to address a $10 billion deficit so easily and quickly (on time) when past Governors have failed to submit their budgets on time while addressing much smaller issues?
2). How come the math does not add up. How does a 2.7% cut ($3.5 billion) erase a $10 billion deficit?
3). What is the impact of delaying addressing a majority of the out of control spending that would have resulted in the $10 billion deficit this year? What impact does that delay have on the next budget cycle?
4). Once the above answers are received the next question, resulting from those answers, would be why has New York State been designated to receive a $12 billion bailout by inappropriate use and abuse of the 2009 Obama stimulus funds? Review of the facts found the following. Cuomo accepted a $6.4 billion bailout for this budget year from the inappropriate application of US Taxpayer 2009 Stimulus funds towards closing the $10 billion deficit. In fact a total of $12 billion dollars in bailout money has been designated for NY State from the stimulus fund just for temporary one off budget deficit payments. To put this in perspective if all 50 states received the same payment from the 2009 Stimulus package that would equate to use of $600 billion dollars of the 2009 stimulus money for non-stimulative debt payment (that would be 70% of the total stimulus funds).
What is the impact of Cuomo’s failure to address most of the spending problems resulting in the $10 billion deficit in the current budget? The impact is deferment of cutting over $6.4 billion this year to 2012. If Cuomo had addressed the $10 billion deficit issues this year the 2012 deficit would be a still painful but much more manageable $8.5 billion.
Cuomo, instead, has left a devastating $15 billion deficit looming over NY State for 2012. Cuomo in fact actually failed to cut even his rather tepid projected $3.5 billion from this year’s budget. Less than $3 billion was actually cut in the 2011-12 budget. Cuomo’s inability to even deliver the relatively small $3.5 billion cut does not bode well for New York State in 2012.
The discovery of the above concerns leads to many more questions such as:
• Why has the US Taxpayers paid for the bailed out of Cuomo and NY State and why has this gone essentially unreported by the media?
• Why would the Obama Administration choose to apply stimulus funds in such large amounts towards what appears to be non-job creating and non-stimulative purposes.
• Is use of US Taxpayers dollars designated for stimulus funding used in this manner legal?
• Is there an underlying political reason for the Obama Administration’s abuse of these stimulus dollars in this manner (is Cuomo being considered for a position in the Obama Administration)?
• Is Cuomo planning on fleeing New York prior to the next budget cycle?
Posted April 27, 2011
Miracle League of GI Extends ThanksAll of us involved in the Miracle League of Grand Island and WNY would like to thank the following people for their generous donations of time and material to make the dream of playing baseball come true. The Jerome Funk Family, Linda Tufillaro of the Recreation Dept., Town Supervisor Peter McMahon and John Whitney of the engineering department, Tom Long and Jim Dinsmore of Sam Long Construction, Kevin Lesika and Fischer Associates for their surveying, Dan Drexelius of Double D Construction, John Yensan and Ontario Specialty Company for the drainage pipe and fabric, Vellano Brothers for drainage Pipe, Frank DiMaria of Frank's Landscaping and Mr. Plumber, Eric Ackerman of Ackerman Huebsch Plumbing, Bob Hobba of Weyman Electric, Mike Sexton of HMS Electric, Charlie Galante of Galante Concrete, Peter Massaro of Massaro Concrete, Zambino Concrete, Dave Dusenberry our design engineer, Chris at Modern, Dan Wood and Eric Weiser our dozer operators, Perry at Lafarge for stone, black top and concrete, Ed Colan for trucking along with Beck Trucking and J. Buscaglia trucking, Lyle Dinsmore of LDC Construction for sewer and water, Dick, Bill and Joe Knabb of Knabb brothers construction for landscaping, Mike Kelly of Arrow Builders, Mike Hooper of Hooper Builders, Patrick Hooper of Hooper Restoration and Dan Hooper of Hooper Construction, Dave Denk, Tom Popovic of Copper Valley Construction, Jim and Jeff Gardner of Gardner and Son's Paving, Buffalo Glass Block, Eric Fiebelkorn of Toshiba, Joe Ferage at Buffalo Printing, Tom Obrachta of E.J. Prescott Company and Leo Myers of Selmore Building Products. On behalf of the Miracle League I would like to thank everyone for their generous donations of time, support and supplies for the construction of the field. Your kindness will be rewarded by seeing the smiles you put on the faces of our players and their families.
Teresa Hooper, President
Posted April 21, 2011
Requests School Board Reconsider Music Dept. Changes - April 2011Hello Board Members:
I would like to officially address my concerns to the board regarding the current changes that are going to take place this 2011-2012 school year. I have already personally spoken to Mr. Christmann and will be meeting with him again on this topic and also in relation to the early start times.
I have heard that there will be a 0.6 music position at the elementary level that will be cut. I assumed that this meant it would only affect the general music classes but have since found out that it will affect the band and the strings also. If there are current staff members that need to be substituted based on seniority, please consider keeping band teachers teaching band and vice-versa with the strings. I understand that the state says "a music teacher is a music teacher" but if you have any background in music, you would know that this is not true.
It is hard to state your case when we are not given all the information. Please try to work within the talents of the teachers we have if we are unable to hire additional band teachers. (Which, I understand, it is not in the budget) We are proud of the music program we have, let's make it better not worse. Maybe an option would be using a general music teacher to give lessons, and cut them down to biweekly allowing a band teacher who is qualified teach our children.
Thank you for your time and I look forward to your reply,
Posted April 13, 2011
Imagine A World With More Birthdays…We need your help to make it happen. The American Cancer Society Relay For Life of Grand Island will be taking place on June 3rd - 4th at the High School track. The gates will open on this year’s "Curtains Up for a Cure" on June 3rd at 2:30 p.m., Opening Ceremony is at 6:30 p.m. with the Luminaria Ceremony at 9:30 p.m., Closing Ceremony at Midnight and event closing at 6:30 a.m. The event is once again an overnight event. You must be a registered participant to eligible to stay overnight. Chaperone/Youth Participation agreements are required for those 18 and under.
Paint the Town Purple or Paint the Island Purple to show support. This is a universal date throughout the United States and this year it is April 30th. Please purchase a purple bow and put it on your mailbox, in a tree in your yard, or on your business. Cancer effects every one in three persons, but those effects are felt by the family and friends also. Help us create more birthdays by joining our fight...
We are once again using canned goods on Relay night as anchors for the luminaria so there is a canned good drive taking place on April 30th at the Island Deli. Please stop in and drop off a can or two. Canned goods will also be collected at all the Relay fundraisers. All canned goods collected for Relay will be donated to the Neighbors Foundation and area food banks following the event.
Consider joining a team or starting one of your own - teams are forming now. Registration can all be done on-line at www.relayforlife.org/grandislandNY or bring your registration information to a team captain meeting on May 3rd at 7:00 p.m. in High School Room 110.
Relay For Life gives people in communities across the globe a chance to celebrate the lives of people who have battled cancer, remember loved ones lost, and fight back against the disease. In addition to helping people celebrate, remember and fight back, Relay For Life also helps raise much needed funds and awareness to help the American Cancer Society save lives from Cancer. Together we can imagine a world with more birthdays!!
Mary Dunbar-Daluisio, Relay Co-Chair
Posted April 11, 2011
Grand Island Citizens: We Deserve Answers - April 2011Hello. My name is Adam Bakula and I have recently been informed of the proposed budget cuts to many Grand Island School programs. I thought I would take this opportunity to reveal some of the findings of my preliminary research and motivate you to further explore this situation.
The purpose of a budget is to predict future expenses based on past expense information. According to the State Comptroller’s Audit of the Grand Island Central School District, “District officials did not prepare reasonable budgets for the 2004-05 through the 2007-08 fiscal years. They consistently overestimated expenditures and underestimated revenues, even though data was often available to develop more accurate budget estimates. A consistent pattern of year-end surpluses indicates that budget estimates have been inaccurate. Consequently, real property taxes may have been unnecessarily increased.” http://www.k12.ginet.org/departments.cfm?subpage=11333
This audit goes on to explore some of the more extravagant overestimations of costs with some as high as one million dollars. That’s right! Their predictions of certain individual expenses missed their mark by A MILLION DOLLARS. What exactly are we paying them for if they can’t make simple estimations based on past information and growth rates.
I decided to look into a particular estimation which I found to be slightly questionable. In their budget, http://www.k12.ginet.org/files/11447/Budget%20Hearing%205-11-10.pdf, the District states that they will be cutting field trips which will save $7,000 and reducing late bus runs which will save $20,000. Now let’s examine the proposed budget for Gasoline. In 2008-9, the Gasoline expense was $221,883.78. What’s their estimate for next year? A whopping $420,000.00! That’s $198,116.22 more than last year or an increase of 89%. This seems interesting considering they plan on cutting one bus run for each High School, Middle School and Elementary School. So where does this estimate come from if they aren’t running more busses? In terms of gasoline there can only be two sources for this estimated increase.
1.) We plan to use more busses or increase our consumption
2.) Gas prices will increase dramatically
We’ve already established that we won’t be using more busses, so this means that the school board predicts that gas prices will be increasing 89% in the coming year. Given that the national average price of gas in 2008-9 was about $3.55, an 89% increase translates to approximately $6.71 per gallon for 2010-11. Unless the school district has some kind of magic crystal ball this estimation seems way too high. So what happens to that extra $198,000 if it’s not spent on gas? It goes into the surplus for next year. In the mean time, they have convinced you of the impending deficit and have already increased your property taxes in addition to cutting crucial school programs for our students.
As citizens and taxpayers you have the right to know where your money is going. This is just one example of the misguided estimations of the District and I urge you to discover more. Before we go about cutting funding to crucial school programs we should take a minute to consider the accuracy of the 2011 predictions and the complete lack of transparency in the budgetary process. The school district has been warned by the State Comptroller to utilize the clearly available data to make more accurate budget projections. The time has come for our school district to start behaving like the 50 million dollar organization that it is.
Adam C. Bakula
Former Grand Island Student
I am formally stating to you that I think the I.B. program is ridiculous at this time. How dare we think of taking on new programs when we are short of money in the budget. We are being asked to consider cutting already existing beneficial programs.
We have an excellent honors program, which gets recognition for the upper level student. The I. B. program does little for few at a tremendous cost. It is my understanding that this program has been dropped in other districts due to its in-effectiveness and high cost. I would not spend my personal money this way, and I do not expect you and the board to be this irresponsible with my tax money. Please fill the other board members in on my feelings at the meeting tonight, as I will be at the CMS musical.
Thank you for your time,
Liz and Bob Lutnick
Posted March 31, 2011
This is a classic example of why government spending continues to grow without end. There are concentrated benefits – use of the pool – while the costs are disbursed – to the whole community, many (most?) of whom have no desire to use the pool. I am sure that the proponents believe that theirs is a worthy cause. Everyone, though, can identify a so-called worthy cause that they believe that should be financed by others. There are lots of things that are nice but have no business being foisted onto the taxpayers, especially for something that isn’t part of the education program. If these worthies get funded, even once, they take on a life of their own. If it wasn’t for the fact that NYS is broke and its tax base is shrinking this item wouldn’t have been on the chopping block even though it should never have been included. One is tempted to ask how much more superfluous spending is buried in the budget.
There is no conceivable way to justify this expenditure as having anything to do with the School Board’s mandate to educate our children. It is totally irrelevant to it. It should be eliminated and kept out permanently. If the 1,012 signatories want to they can form the Spicer Creek pool club, charging each signer $37.25 assuming everyone who signed joins, and contract with the School Board to rent the pool.
Arguing that Grand Island doesn’t have a pool is specious. People knew that when they moved here. I, like most people my age, swam in the river or in one of the Great Lakes. Plopping one’s self down on Grand Island and then expecting others to fund one’s lifestyle is a bit rich. The Town of Tonawanda Aquatic Center has swimming lessons as do the various YMCA facilities. There is also Beaver Island for recreational swimming.
Finally, let me point out that while I don’t believe that keeping the pool open should be part of the school budget it wouldn’t have been axed if it wasn’t for the fact that the Board and Superintendent are bound and determined to inflict the International Baccalaureate program on us. This is a very expensive program that may possibly benefit a miniscule number of students. Where is the outrage? If anyone thinks that their child should have this then send him or her to Nichols, Park, Buffalo Sem., Exeter, Andover, etc. It is totally inappropriate for a public school curriculum. If for no other reason, the budget should be voted down in May to get their attention about this. Also, any incumbents running for re-election should be defeated even if that means voting for Alexi Kosygin, dead commie, or Yosemite Sam, a Looney Tune.
Posted March 30, 2011
Do not think twice about seeing the Connor Middle School production of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast!” You will be amazed at the professionalism of this play. The cast, the costumes and the sets are all top notch. Middle school teachers Mrs. Sarah Russo and Ms. Shannon Smith produced, directed and choreographed this delightful production. Playing time is less than 90 minutes and there is no intermission. You still have time, performances are scheduled for Tuesday, March 29 and Wednesday, March 30 at 7:00 p.m. Tickets are $5 for ages 11+ and $3.00 for ten and under.
Middle School Play A Must See
Posted March 29, 2011
The Jack Davis Campaign for Congress in New York's 26th District has chosen to ignore this majority opinion and they have created a TEA Party line. I sat at a coffee shop with Jack Davis last night, Thursday, March 24th, and explained this problem to him. Jack has been getting advice from Allen Coniglio and James Ostrowski who are members of a rogue tea party group that are determined to create a 3rd party. A little over a year ago they attempted to convince the TEA Party groups in Western New York that a 3rd party was needed and their Tea Party Coalition was the path. We all disagreed, and because of this and other unresolved conflict, we walked away wanting nothing to do with this.
Just a year ago, Curtis Ellis penned an opinion piece that described tea party members as “self-absorbed, privileged children.” Today, Ellis is the chief spokesman and campaign manager for Jack Davis. “The tea party is a harbinger of midlife crisis, not political crisis,” Ellis wrote in a Feb. 24, 2010, opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times titled “Most ‘tea party’ followers are baby boomers reliving the ’60s.” See article http://www.rollcall.com/news/-204295-1.html?zkPrintable=true ...
We are now in the midst of a real problem. We have no personal issues with Jack and feel everyone has the right to run for office. The main problem here is that there is NO primary, and we must consider the problems created by "splitting the line." This is a 3rd party run using the TEA Party as a road to get into office. We are dead set against the use of the name. We don't own the name, no one does. Yet people understand and respect the people in the movement. By continuing on this crusade, the Davis campaign is insulting the very people he claims to want to lead and represent. I respectfully ask Jack to get out of this race as now it is too late to change the name. His advisors and campaign manager are trying to pull a power play for self aggrandizement and power. This will not be tolerated by the people involved in the TEA Party movement.
Rus and Jul Thompson
Posted March 28, 2011
Once I reached 9th grade I swam on the Varsity Swim Team. The stands were always packed for every one of our swim meets. How exciting it was to have so many people cheering for us. I couldn’t really hear much of what anyone was yelling with my head under the water but I could always hear my coach whistling and my Dad yelling, “Atta boy Ann”. Being a part of the high school swim team is a very special time for me. Coming from a Catholic grade school I didn’t know many people, but being part of the swim team, I felt like I was part of a family. It didn’t matter what went on in the halls of high school, as soon as you step into the pool you were all a big family. At a time when I could have been nervous or scared I was full of confidence.
During my high school physical education swim classes, I was always asked to demonstrate. I remember feeling very special and proud of myself. I also completed my lifeguard training classes here in the pool and continue to this day to recertify my lifeguarding here in this pool. When I look back on my high school career, the only thing that stands out is my swim team, my family. The biggest influences in my life besides my parents were my swim coaches. They made me who I am.
Being part of the swim team led me to college to become a physical education teacher. Of course, I swam throughout my four years of college as well.
Since swimming has been such a big influence in my life, I wanted to teach others how to swim. I now spend most of my time here at the Grand Island HS pool teaching middle school kids how to swim properly in their PE classes. I love to see their faces looking proudly up at me when they learn how to do a stroke properly. I also lifeguard for the middle school and high school PE swim classes.
I also help coach the St. Stephen’s School swim team which practices and holds their meets at this pool. All four of my children are part of this swim team and it is a very important part of their lives. This has led to my daughter becoming a part of the Grand Island Swim Club, which is very special to me because she has the same coach that I had. I have come full circle in this pool. I hope that other kids get to experience some of the things that I have right here in this pool and would hate to see it close. Please don’t close our pool, it means so much to so many.
Ann (Walker) Strott
Posted March 28, 2011
Posted March 24, 2011
This proud feeling has now taken a downward spiral with the recent proposed cuts in the school budget including but not limited to the closing of the GI High School pool. Our ten-year old daughter is a member of the Grand Island Swim Club and swims at the pool four times per week; a commitment that is year round. Not only does she and her teammates practice at the Grand Island High School pool, they participate in several swim meets throughout the season which also takes place at “her” pool, a term our daughter uses all the time. Anyone who has their child involved with a team sport, knows of the commitment both the family and the child are involved in; and it is not just about the sport itself and what that teaches a child, it is about learning to be part of the team, being a team player, patience, persistence, and long lasting friendships to just name a few. Whether you are football parents, hockey parents, soccer parents, you know the joy your child's sport brings to them as well as to you and your families. Swimmers and their parents and families are no different.
Don't take the pool away from these kids or from the community of Grand Island. Not only will these kids suffer but also the entire community of Grand Island and all who use the pool will suffer as well.
Jan and Jim Mitchell
Posted March 24, 2011
I would like to give a little history as to why our Lions Club organization is supporting this endeavor. In addition to helping the blind and multiple “sight” projects, we do other things for the betterment of our community. In particular, our Grand Island Lions Club has a long history of helping disadvantaged children, holding the “Special Kids Picnic” every July for over fifty years. Every year we host over one thousand children with disabilities from our Western New York region to boat rides, pony rides, face painting, hot dogs, hamburgers and a lot of entertainment. Helping Miracle League is an extension of our commitment to making the lives of handicapped children a little bit better.
We are grateful to Miracle League for embracing our offer to help them with the Miracle League baseball field. As most everyone knows the Lions Club is an international organization and we have recruited help for this project on every level. Locally the Amherst Lions and the Lancaster Lions have joined us to help Miracle League and these clubs are doing fundraising of their own for this project. We expect other clubs will join us as this is not just a Grand Island project. We have contacted our District 20N and have submitted grants for matching funds not only from the District but from the Lions Clubs International Foundation. It is our fondest hope that our collective Lions' efforts will put Miracle League over the top of its goal to raise the $250,000 necessary to break ground this spring and have a field ready for baseball this season.
President, Grand Island Lions Club
Posted March 23, 2011
Mary and Jack West
Jackson Music Centre, Inc.
Posted March 23, 2011
I feel this move could be a fatal mistake. I have been involved with water safety and competitive swimming for many years and I strongly believe that when you live on an island with many creeks and backyard pools, learning to swim to save your life might be tops on the educational list.
Many communities in western New York have town run, community pools. These pools, are the sites of learn to swim programs. Grand Island is not so fortunate. The parents on Grand Island either have to teach their own children to swim or take advantage of the town programs conducted at the high school pool. The swim instructors hired by the town have probably, indirectly, saved the lives of hundreds of young children over the years by "water proofing" them.
Until Grand Island can generate a town pool of its own, keep the high school facility going and teach the next generation to swim.
Retired Art Teacher/Swim Coach
Posted March 17, 2011
The March 6, 2010 Weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal had an article with the headline: “Homeowners Hold Ground Against Rising Property Taxes.” California’s Proposition 13 from the late 1970s is now working its way across the US. People are beginning to vote with their feet to escape the impact of high and rising property taxes. The property tax has evolved from an efficient means of generating the required revenues to provide necessary community services to a means of generating enormous sums of revenue to spend with little thoughtfulness and care, compared to how the taxpayer would spend the monies, on an ever expanding and well-heeled bureaucracy.
Approaches to taxation over the centuries developed based on the ease of collection and the broadness of the base. For instance, at the founding of the U.S. most taxation was on imports or exports. This was due to a number of reasons. It was easy to determine the value at the point of embarkation. Most people, if they were paid at all and didn’t engage in some form of barter, were paid in cash for goods or services rendered. This made it difficult to track incomes. It wasn’t until the twentieth century when the Progressives (Socialists, by another name) convinced enough people that it was somehow inherently unfair that a subset of Americans were rather well-to-do and should be made to pay “their fair share.” At its inception the income tax was applied to less than 1% of the population and wasn’t used to fund utopian schemes. How times have changed.
The property tax had much the same evolution. When governments were small, people fended for themselves, and the tax rates were low and reflected, however imperfectly, the services rendered to the homeowner or business. That has all changed. Property taxes and their abatements are used shamelessly by local governments to hand out largess, in one form or another, to favored constituencies. Typically, the largess has gone to commercial and industrial firms that threaten to leave town. The politicians are to blame for causing this state of affairs because of the discriminatory rate of taxation they impose on businesses.
In my home town the busybodies at the economic development board want to encourage more commercial enterprises to locate here. Why, you ask? This is their stated reason, I couldn’t make this up if I tried: commercial enterprises receive $.52 in services for every $1.00 in property taxes they pay. Homeowners get $1.07 for every $1.00. Therefore, if we get more commercial businesses here we can subsidize the homeowners even more. Would anyone pay $50K for a Toyota Camry that could be purchased in another town for $26K? Of course not, but this is the type of behavior that this board thinks exists. And they wonder why it is difficult to get firms to locate here unless they are given tax abatements galore.
The important point, though, is that property taxes no longer bear any relation to the services rendered to a piece of property. As a simple example, take two homes that are being built on adjacent lots. Both homes are of the exact same size and layout. The first owner decides that he wants to put in the best appliances, heating system and water heating system possible. He still has one kitchen, one furnace, and one water heater just like the guy next door. To make the differences in value even sharper, the first owner has gold faucets placed in the master bathroom. Clearly, the cost of this house will be greater than the second one. Its property taxes will be higher, possibly much higher. Just as clearly, the first house receives no greater or better services for this increased taxation.
The property tax is a fixed cost to the property owner. It must be paid regardless of the owner’s fiscal situation. Because of this municipal employees have no reason to moderate any wage or benefit demands. Only in those locales where one very large industrial plant, although these are becoming few and far between since the golden goose of steel mills and auto plants has been killed, pays a preponderance of the property taxes and can move operations elsewhere, is there any moderation in demands by the municipality.
In economics, a decrease in income would cause an individual to reduce consumption of every good, some more, some less severely. However, the property tax compels one to consume the same amount of government provided services, making all of the reductions in privately provided ones. This sends distorted signals to the marketplace, and in particular, to the politicians. In the short-term this game is assumed to be played successfully by municipalities but over time as fewer firms set up shop in the area, the more talented young people leave before they become too committed to the locale, it is clear that the politicians won the battle but lost the war. Over time, then, the community slowly deteriorates. Once this starts it takes a very long time to reverse the cycle.
[The following two paragraphs have been added.] Besides the distortions mentioned above where an individual puts in higher quality appliances, there are consequences that are even more perverse, if that is possible. We are currently encouraging everyone to conserve energy, regardless of the cost of doing so. If an individual puts on (expensive) Dow solar shingles, available in 2011, on their house; puts foam insulation in the walls; and a tankless hot water heater; he will incur substantial capital costs that are reflected in the value of the home. This will increase the property taxes. This works to discourage the investment in these energy savings products. Take an individual who decides to make his home the center of his family’s life. He puts in an in-ground swimming pool and other amenities. His property taxes go up for the privilege of doing so. Take the same person who opts, instead, to take all of the family’s vacations outside of the US, spending the same amount over time as in the first case. There is no property tax penalty for doing so. So, in effect, we are discouraging people from enhancing their properties and increasing employment in the community, while encouraging people to spend their incomes elsewhere. Does this make sense to anyone?
The reassessment process, if it must be done, should do one thing and one thing only; that is, it should re-allocate the proportion of taxes paid by the members of the community. If my property has risen in value by 10% while someone else’s has only risen by 5%, then my share should increase, with total staying the same. This is because total taxes collected = (tax base) x (tax rate). That is the theory, anyway. Here is what really happens. A reassessment, typically (but not always, especially in the current environment) raises the tax base along with redistributing the proportions owed. This means that at the current tax rate more taxes would be collected. The taxing entities, especially school boards, won’t adjust the tax rate to reflect the higher base when presenting their upcoming budget compared to the existing one. Doing so would allow an apples-to-apples comparison. Instead, we’ll hear about how the proposed increase in the tax rate is only a small percentage increase. While true it obscures the fact that one’s total tax bill will be going up by a substantially higher percentage because of the new assessed values. This is a stealth way to increase revenues (=spending) which then gets baked into the process going forward. At the very least all presentations need to be made using a revised tax rate reflecting what would have been applied if the revised tax base had been in effect. This, to use a phrase popular nowadays, would result in transparency. (Don’t hold your breath.)
It is high time that the property tax be completely rethought and reduced in significance as a source of tax revenue.
Posted February 28, 2011
by Mike Madigan
Posted February 24, 2011
The Town of Grand Island has not completed a town wide real property reassessment since 1986. In 1986 Hank Bullough was the coach of the Buffalo Bills and Gilbert Perreault was still lacing it up for the Sabres - in other words it was a long time ago. Almost every other municipality in WNY has reassessed its properties since then - most within the past 10 years or less. It is time for the Town of Grand Island to implement such a reassessment.
It is Time For Real Property Tax Reassessment on Grand Island - Feb. 2011
Why? The answers are many but the most striking is simple - fairness. A brochure titled FAIR ASSESSMENTS - A Guide for Property Owners, published by the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, sets forth various benefits to “frequent” reassessments. Item one on the list of benefits reads as follows:
*“Assessment Equity for Taxpayers – The longer it has been since a municipality has updated assessments, the more likely it is that some taxpayers are paying more than their fair share in taxes. Up-to-date assessments eliminate unfair assessments and the “sticker shock” that taxpayers experience when assessments are adjusted after years of neglect”.
These are not my words. The complete brochure is available on line at - http://www.orps.state.ny.us/pamphlet/fairassessments.htm.
In Grand Island, there is no doubt that some are paying higher taxes than their fair share and others less than their fair share. This benefit (or disadvantage) continues year after year until a reassessment is complete. Your neighbors may be paying more or less than you although you live in similar homes.
There are other reasons for reassessment. These include: fewer court challenges to assessments and the fact that your taxes will be based on something easy to understand - market value. The Equalization Rate which is applied to determine the taxable value today is difficult to understand. It will be irrelevant if a reassessment occurs at fair market value.
The downside. Some or our taxes will go up, some will stay the same and others go down - but they will be assessed fairly at market value. A misconception is that the overall taxes in Grand Island will go up - they will not. The Town Board and the School Board will still collect the same amount of dollars - they will merely be allocated differently - again fairly.
Why hasn’t the Town completed a reassessment yet. I do not know but a recent study on reassessments completed by the Erie County Department of Real Property Tax Services reads as follows when discussing various towns: “The primary difference in the reassessment verses non reassessment group lies largely with the political will or desire and determination of the elected boards to achieve and maintain equity for the taxpayer.” See page 13 - http://www.erie.gov/ecrpts/pdfs/AssessmentStudy.pdf. Let’s have some political will on Grand Island - it is the fair thing to do.
Glenn J. Bobeck
Posted February 23, 2011
To whom it may concern:
Middle School Start Time - Feb. 2011
As concerned Middle School parents, we are asking the board to consider the justification for our concerns surrounding the Middle School start time. Although this letter is signed by one set of parents, we have spoken with several other parents of Middle School children who share the same concerns.
As involved parents, we attended the board meeting last spring and heard the reasons why the middle school start time would be adjusted. Although we had our doubts, we were open minded and believed the children might adapt to the early schedule. Unfortunately, we were mistaken. Over the past academic year, we have witnessed the deterioration of our daughter; both academically and socially. Our daughter use to love school. Now, she doesn’t want to go; she says she hates it. This may sound somewhat “normal” but she has loved school for the past 8 years, including her first year of middle school. Our primary concern is for our children’s ability to learn and comprehend this early in the morning. This stems from an inadequate amount of sleep and nutrition tied to the early bus schedule. Parents of children we know are getting picked up as early as 6:40 and starting school at 7:43. That’s an hour ride to school every day. In addition, students spend more time on the bus ride home. For purposes of example, let’s assume the average bus pick up time is 7:00 and students need to get up at 6:15. Students will need to be in bed sleeping between 9:05 – 9:45 to earn between 8.5 – 9.2 hours of required sleep as indicated by the Nationals Sleep Foundation (NSP). Unfortunately, this isn’t a reasonable bed time for most teens between the ages of 10 – 17. As a result, many of our children are being deprived from the necessary sleep. Research from the NSP links short sleep duration to an increased risk for psychiatric conditions including depression and substance abuse and a decreased ability to pay attention, react to signals or remember new information.
In addition, our children and peer parents have told us many students are skipping breakfast because they are not hungry or would rather sleep longer. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, approximately 8 to 12 percent of all school-aged kids skip breakfast. By the time kids enter adolescence, as many as 20 to 30 percent of them have completely given up the morning meal. “Many of them are not getting enough sleep,” says Marcie Beth Schneider, M.D., FAAP, a member of the AAP’s Committee on Nutrition and an adolescent medicine physician in Greenwich, Conn. “They often wake up too tired or too nauseous to eat.” Coincidentally, increase in body mass index tied to a greater likelihood of obesity due to an increased appetite is also caused by sleep deprivation according to the NSP.
In addition, our Middle School children are expected to wait at a dark bus stop. Because many parents don’t want to leave their children alone on a dark street corner, they drive their children to the bus stop and wait. When the bus arrives early, children are exposed to a different risk by running down a dark street to catch the bus. There is also a tremendous concern about integrating High School students with Middle School students. There is a greater chance for inappropriate behavior – verbally, physically and emotionally, especially combining High School boys with Middle School girls.
Lastly, many of the extracurricular activities including academic extracurricular act ivies such as music and test review prep are held before class. This only enhances the sleep deprivation argument. If the decision is made to keep the earlier Middle School start time, the school board may want to consider sharing the year over year results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) of our Middle School students.
We would like to formally request the Board publish the data that was presented at the board meeting last spring that supported the decision to adjust the Middle School start time. We would like to request a meeting with the School Board to allow parents to present their concerns during the March 7th meeting if possible.. Can the respective individual please email these materials to us at Spencer146@roadrunner.com? Also, can you let us know when the Board of Education will allow the concerned parents to present our case? Thank you in advance for you time on our behalf.
Scott & Shannon Spencer
Posted February 22, 2011
I agree with Bob Kopf on Ransom Road and Stony Point.
The police officer just sitting there waiting for someone to do something wrong is a colossal waste of money.
Traffic lights with crosswalks are needed!
Ransom Road Critique - Feb. 2011
Also, what is going on with the "corner store" at Ransom and Stony Point, the Mobil station at the "center of town", etc...? There are so many eyesores on Grand Island. The former Mobil Station is a joke. It resembles a post-apocalyptic scene. Why does Grand Island allow this?
My taxes are ridiculously high. What am I paying for?
Posted February 17, 2011
This morning, as with every weekday morning, I sat in traffic trying to make a left turn onto Stony Point Road from Ransom Road. There is a continuous flow of traffic traveling northbound on Stony Point, turning on Ransom towards the school complex...as well as southbound traffic on Stony Point. Much of the southbound traffic on Stony Point also turns onto Ransom Rd. The westbound Ransom Road traffic builds and builds...residents from the Bluejay and Tracey Lane developments can rarely get onto Ransom due to this traffic pattern. I've noticed that just about everyday there is a police vehicle located on Stony Point maybe 50 yards from the Stony Point/Ransom Road intersection just waiting for someone to use the shoulder of Ransom Road to make a right turn onto Stony Point. Why can't this officer do what traffic officers used to do and direct traffic at that intersection...stop traffic and let a number of vehicles turn onto Stony and eliminate some of the congestion? To me that seems to be a better use of the officer's time and talents...and maybe make the morning commute a bit less stressful.
Ransom Road Morning Traffic Gets Worse and Worse - Feb. 2011
Posted February 16, 2011
Buffalo Sabres Alumni help support The Miracle League - Jan. 2011
Click photo for larger viewBuffalo Sabres Alumni helped support The Miracle League of Grand Island & WNY. Miracle League of Grand Island & WNY would like to thank Larry and Jayne Playfair for giving us the opportunity to sell the 50/50 raffle tickets at the World Junior Games at HSBC Arena on December 26 and December 31. Special THANKS goes out to everyone who helped sell the tickets:
Ashley Courrier, Amy Hewson, Erick Klein, Mike Steinagel, Mary McMahon, Sean McMahon, Mary Ann McMahon, Steve McMahon, Joe McMahon, Kim McMahon, Carlie McMahon, Stephanie McMahon, Dave Chervinski, Dick Crawford, Christine Ratajczak, Tom Russert, Donna LoVallo, Robert Arsenault, Ryan Ferger, Jeff Miller, Paul Jasek, Chris and Missy Hartwick, Reba Conway, Joe and Betsy Fredricks, Gale and Dick Sander, Donna Goeddertz, Marcie and Gabe Fischer, Mike Brown, Jim Lewis, Gene and Seth Kozek, Carrie Fox, Melanie Haier, Joan Droit, Stephanie and Steve Pelikudovski, Roger Kehlick, Darcy Benzin, Don Schaeffer, Alyssa Carducci, Karen Coughlin, Melanie Hailer, Jennifer Yund, Kim and Bob Willer, and Tom Becker. THANKS to all of you, we raised $6,000!!!! You are helping to change the lives of so many in our community!!
Teresa Hooper, President
For more information or to volunteer with The Miracle League of Grand Island & WNY go to our web site at www.miracleleaguewny.com or call Teresa Hooper at 773-9398 or Fran McMahon at 773-9707.
Posted January 17, 2011