Time to get involved
It’s school budget hearing time again. That’s right, I said the “B” word.
The dates for the Mattituck-Cutchogue district are March 4, release of the preliminary budget to the board of ed. Budget hearings are on March 8 and 24 and tentatively set for April 5.
In the past several years, I have attended many budget hearings. They afford the opportunity to listen to the school board presentation and review the comprehensive budget so one is armed with good information in order to make an informed choice in the voting booth on May 17.
Since school taxes are 70 percent of my tax bill, it’s important for me to review the budget and perhaps ask questions about budget lines that warrant clarity as to what drives the cost.
Sadly, in recent years, these meetings are under-attended. Last year there were 10 people; the school board and four residents. For all those taxpayers 50 and older who wonder why they and/or their children can’t afford to live here, it’s because no one attends these meetings to ask questions or make cost-cutting recommendations that doesn’t affect teachers or educational programs.
In reviewing the spending, we need to ask ourselves and the board is it a want or a need? A need is about education. A want is not an option in these tough economic times.
For many who say they’re moving away once their children graduate or when they decide to retire, remember if you have a reasonably priced home but your taxes are high, you will not be able to sell for the price you’re looking for. Just look at Riverhead’s real estate pricing vs. their taxes. Shocking.
If you ever want to sell your home for whatever the reason, taxes are going to make or break the sale. Perhaps that’s reason enough to attend the next budget hearings that are fast approaching.
Go to Mattituck-Cutchogue’s website, mufsd.com, to see when the budget meetings are scheduled. More public awareness of these hearing dates may prove to cause a bigger turnout.
Let’s try to find solutions for the school district and taxpayers by collaborating and exchanging ideas to get the biggest bang for our bucks.
See you at the budget hearings.
Way out of balance
Jumping into the middle of a conversation, I want to comment on the teacher pay conversation.
Teachers deserve to be duly compensated for their educational investment and time spent in and out of the classroom. Where the disconnect perhaps lies is when taxpayers are broke and pressuring their representatives to reduce spending, public employees are the first looked at for potential cuts for future savings.
Taxpayers are not an endless well of dollars and are demanding taxes remain at current spending levels or reduced. Unlike private professionals, taxpayers do not have the ability to debate and influence the amount of compensation they receive, but they do have that ability for public employees’s wages.
Bottom line here is homeowners are feeling the pinch and want spending curtailed.
Teachers are known to have an elaborate pension and health benefit retirement package. These costs are a burden on the taxpayer and cannot be sustained in perpetuity. Teachers need to be realistic to collectively bargain for either more pay now and less pension later, or less pay now in exchange for greater pension payouts.
Privately employed people are angered by the percentage disparity between what they have to contribute to health care and pension and the much lower pay-in and an often greater payout made possible by taxpayer subsidies.
Bottom line here is public sector salary and pension pay-in amounts should be consistent with the private sector.
The argument that East End teachers are paid less than others in Nassau and Suffolk is a non-argument. The tax base is far larger the further west one travels so the percentage per household is minimal compared to the smaller tax base of Southold.
Bottom line here is the financial impact is far greater on a smaller number here.
A new union coming
Recently, at a union rally in Massachusetts, Democratic Representative Mike Capuano stated to the union workers: “Every once in a while you have to go down in the streets and get a little bloody when necessary.”
Mr. Capuano is a product of the 1960s’ Democrat SDS and Weather Underground ideology, which is to drive you point home with violent demonstrations. Mr. Capuano would have the U.S. union workers mirror those union workers demonstrating in the streets of Greece. And all the while the liberal media remains mute.
There will be no shouts of indignation at his statement, nor will anyone suggest his removal from office. The apparent silence indicates that this is what the Democratic Party and liberal media condone and stand for.
The teachers’ union has just two jobs. One is to negotiate for more pay and benefits for their members. Second is to receive more dues from their members so as to contribute large sums of money to the politicians who will ensure that the union will be able to exact more pay and benefits from the taxpayers. This is known as the law of diminishing returns.
The reason more people are turning to private schools and home schooling is that they provide a better education at 20 percent less cost than the unionized public schools. We are forced to pay more in taxes for a substandard education system top-heavy with administrators and union delegates.
The reason for this is simple: The unions are the cash cow for the Democratic liberal progressive socialist politicians.
If the taxpayers are to have hope and change they must follow Wisconsin’s lead. Unions do not negotiate; they dictate in the same way as those Democrats in Wisconsin chose not to debate but to evacuate. Democrats will only adhere to union pressure and not to the will of the people.
That will change in 2012 when they will adhere to the new taxpayer union, the Tea Party.
Tossed under the bus
There is a smoking gun in Southold in the possession of Carole Geiss.
When Councilman Vincent Orlando was asked at the Feb. 15 town meeting why he chose Ms. Geiss to solicit organizations to bid on managing the Southold animal shelter he replied: “I didn’t ask her to write a letter.” (See 2:14 on the Southold Town website’s video recording.)
According to Ms. Geiss in a letter to the editor published in the Feb. 23 Suffolk Times, Mr. Orlando sent her an e-mail on Feb. 3 requesting: “Can you let the people know that might be interested in bidding? Thanks, Vinny.”
In response to this request, on Feb. 5 Ms. Geiss wrote to RSVP, Riverhead’s animal rescue organization, asking them to bid on the new contract to replace The North Fork Animal Welfare League, which has been running the shelter for 30 years.
I produced a copy of Ms. Geiss’ letter at the Feb. 15 meeting that I read in full, including the quote “… Southold Town Councilman Vincent Orlando has asked me to contact the animal rescue organizations that might participate in the bidding process.”
At this point, Mr. Orlando responded by emphasizing, “No one spoke to her as a town officer and say work for us and do that.” (See 0:55 on the Southold Town website’s video recording.)
“I was shocked to see that,” Mr. Orlando also exclaimed regarding Ms. Geiss’ letter to RSVP.
Scott Russell portrayed this letter as “offensive to me.” He also described Ms. Geiss in this role as a person who has “an ax to grind.”
Considering Mr. Orlando’s behavior in this matter, I am now requesting that he recuse himself from any matters pertaining to the animal shelter. Clearly, he is biased.
It should be also be pointed out that Mr. Orlando’s term expires this year and I would suggest that in light of these revelations he seriously consider acting as a gentleman.
Close the deal
My reaction to the Town Board meeting of Feb. 16 was one of worry for the future well-being of Southold’s homeless animals.
Nothing that was said by board members convinced me that they shared that concern, or that they were encouraging the North Fork Animal Welfare League to continue managing the animal shelter.
Board members stated that the new shelter building had several problems that need to be dealt with. Did the town have a performance bond relating to its construction and was it not the town’s responsibility to thoroughly inspect that structure prior to its acceptance? If there were design problems, why weren’t they discovered sooner?
Board members repeatedly stated that a prior board authorized the new building, but is it not true that three of the six present board members were part of that prior board?
What’s more, five of the present board members were on board during the time that the shelter was under construction or nearing completion, and when it was accepted as built.
The board repeatedly spoke about state regulations relating to the operation of an animal shelter that need to be addressed in any new contract. I am not familiar with those regulations, but did they exist before the last contract with NFAWL was entered into? If so, why didn’t the town seek to comply with them then?
One board member in effect stated that they were seeking others to manage the shelter because when the present contract expires on March 31, the NFAWL may not want to continue their services. I’m not a member of NFAWL, but based on past history, their deep interest in the welfare of these animals is their priority and turning their backs on them would not happen.
It seems to me that the board is attempting to discourage NFAWL from managing the shelter.
I would not want to see the shelter become a repository for political hacks such as seems to be the case in the Town of Hempstead, or managed by an individual or group that places financial gain above providing a safe haven for unfortunate animals.
Hopefully the NFAWL will negotiate with the town for a new contract and that it will remain a no-kill shelter, free of micromanagement by the board.
Doing their job
Having attended the Feb. 15 Town Board meeting to try to understand the concern of the North Fork Animal Welfare League regarding the request for proposal (RFP) that the Town Board sent out, and also being an animal lover and owner, I decided to convey my observations.
If you believe there is or will be a plot, back door or otherwise, stop reading this letter.
I have visited the new shelter and found the staff there to be friendly and very helpful. My opinions were confirmed by several other residents who spoke at the meeting. I also heard from Supervisor Scott Russell that the only purpose of the RFP was to do his job in making sure a contract which is over $500,000 gives the town its best value. I applaud the supervisor and the board for its diligence especially in these economic times.
(Now if only they could take out the phrase “tissue-strength quality acceptable” from their next yellow bag RFP.)
It also appeared that even the board members felt that the NFAWL had a leg up (no pun intended) on all the other possible bidders based on the time frame to submit their bids, and 30 years of running the shelter.
The board also stated that there were not only design issues with the new shelter, but costly and frustrating equipment failures, which they felt required more training. Reading between the lines, that may be the only negative note of the night for the staff and NFAWL.
As for the design failures, which the board said created higher energy costs, it seems unfair to pass them on to the NFAWL when or if they are awarded the contract. While cost is and should be a very high priority in any contract, there must be built into any reasonable contract award standards for reliability (a bidder’s ability to do the job), accountability and prior performance.
Since we’re dealing with animals and not No. 2 pencils, I am convinced this will not be lost on this board, which taxpayers should be proud of for doing exactly what they were elected for.
Go Green’s offer
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who came out to the Feb. 24 meeting at Town Hall and also to everyone who sent letters and e-mails in support of Go Green.
Hopefully the board will follow through with eliminating the yellow bag system as we proposed, which has been such a burden on the Southold residents. Our position on curbside separation of recyclables is that we are not in violation of state law as we are taking the waste to a state DEC-permitted and -approved recycling/transfer station. We encourage our customers to visit the website www.wintersbros.com to view the facilities we use.
We have been in contact with DEC officials who have informed us that they have no issues with Go Green Sanitation or with the facility we unload at. We further assert that as we are bypassing the Southold Town transfer station the town cannot be in any violation of state law due to our service.
That being said, in an effort to refute the defamatory accusations put forth by the Southold Town Board and in seeking a peaceful resolution to the ongoing discussion, Go Green Sanitation would like to offer our customers a separate pickup day for recyclable materials.
Several of our customers have expressed a desire to have a curbside separation program, which allows them to monitor their own environmental commitment.
If the Southold Town Board follows through with their promise to eliminate the yellow bag system and brings their dumping rate in line with industry standards, we would like to again offer to bring all of our refuse to the town transfer station. That keeps all the revenues within the town, further reducing the tax burden on residents.
Go Green Sanitation is still committed to providing Southold residents with an affordable, environmentally sound and convenient refuse removal choice.
president, Go Green Sanitation
The gifts of spring
The witch hazel is in bloom in Southold, down by Jockey Creek in the gardens of the Christian Science Society. Beautiful, delicate yellow flowers announcing that spring is coming in three weeks and the long winter is over.
The frost is coming out of the ground and making mud in our neighbor’s pasture. The green world will spring forth once again, the fertile land giving us flowers, grass, leaves and an abundance of fruits and vegetables. Birds and frogs are singing and mating and soon will give birth to new life.
Our earth experiences severe climate change from all that humans have done to it, burning fossil fuels and putting toxic chemicals into our water supply. Be kind to our own piece of the planet.
When I was a child in Cutchogue spring meant planting peas and potatoes, starting seeds indoors, digging steamer clams, a new ball and a new pair of jeans. It still does, but it’s also neighbors and landscapers using incredibly loud leaf blowing machines and lawn mowers, lawn fertilizers and chemicals that pollute with noise and exhaust and drain into our creeks and drinking water.
The high rate of cancer in Long Island has been linked to toxins in the environment; it makes sense — you are what you eat, and we are 70 percent water.
We all make our noises. We use a gas-powered rototiller for a few hours each spring and a chain saw to cut wood, but be considerate of your neighbors. A rake, a bicycle, a push mower are wonderful inventions that are kinder to our world and to your neighbors.
Leaf blowers have been outlawed in 24 California cities because they are so loud. Our society will have landscapers with reduced hearing to care for.
Let nature live! Go for a walk in one of the town’s many preserves and amaze your children with salamanders, spring peepers and the magic of the witch hazel, instead of putting them in front of video games or a computer. If they are quiet, they may even see a fairy or a leprechaun.
The earth and its flora and fauna were created or evolved for our enjoyment, not our destruction. Walk, use solar or wind power, plant a garden and eat foods grown locally. Enjoy the miracle of the sunrise and the sunset every day on one of our beaches.
Happens every year
Isn’t it funny how every February or March, Sen. Chuck Schumer sends his PR people to the press and tells all of us what a great job he’s doing on the helicopter noise problem.
He brokered a voluntary deal with the helicopter companies that did nothing, nor was it meant to. Now he has sponsored an amendment that does not push for any specific regulations, and it gives the FAA one year to do nothing. Great.
Aren’t we lucky to have Chuck? Thank you, Chuck. What would us poor people on the North Fork do without you?
More to the story
I was most disappointed to learn of the recent death of Mattituck resident Chuck Adams. He was a renowned, consistent contributor to the Traveler-Watchman newspaper for many years with his sports columns.
It seems his contributions to that newspaper were overlooked in the Jan. 6 Suffolk Times obituary write-up. It would be nice to give Chuck Adams even more credit for his lifetime achievements.
He really was something.
Who would do this?
Sometime between 10:30 p.m. and 8 a.m. on Feb. 24-25 someone entered our property in our absence and abused our horses.
They were rounded up and aggressively tied up in the barn, two of them with their heads together and tethered to a wall and the third tethered so tightly to a wall that he couldn’t move his head. Miraculously, they didn’t hurt themselves or each other trying to break free.
All three horses are rescues from abuse and negligence. When our caretaker Debrah found them in the morning, they were panic-stricken and desperate. This was a cruel act with apparently no motivation. If it was a message, what is it, you bloody coward?
I want to say thank you to the Southold police, who came, reported it and questioned our neighbors. Thank you for the offers of the police and neighbors to keep an eye out for us in the future. To Debrah, I say thank you and thank God for you.
To whoever terrified our horses and caused such trauma to our sleepy little hamlet, upsetting our false sense of security and peace, I say, what comes around, goes around and you will be found out.
A good practice
Concerning the Village of Greenport’s new procurement policy, the mayor’s statement as to state law not always requiring requests for proposals (RFPs) is true.
What is not mentioned is that RFPs are not forbidden either. In fact, the state auditor in his report stated that RFPs were a “best practice” and the village in its audit response admitted that to be true.
To eliminate competitive bidding in municipal contracts does nothing to serve the needs of the taxpayers. To exempt an insurance adjuster, engineering firm, architect, or an auditor does nothing to bring down costs of these service.
If anything we, the taxpayers, probably pay more, which, coincidentally, was also mentioned in the comptroller’s report.
This letter is to say thank you to the ladies and gentlemen of the Greenport Fire Department.
Marching (as they always have) in the cold and wind is to be praised, as is their generosity for the clam chowder and hot dogs.
I have gone to the Washington’s Birthday Parade since 1965 and it’s the highlight of the winter.
Spring can’t be far behind.