Photo by Tom Rivers Posted 11 April 2014
ALBION – The Orleans County Deputy Sheriff’s Association presented a $1,000 check today to the Orleans County Joint Veterans Council to help the group buy a van to transport veterans to medical appointments.
Erin Fuller, left, is president of the Deputy Sheriff’s Association. The group raises money with fundraisers and through contributions from its 23 members.
Fuller is standing with, from left: Paul Fulcomer, chairman of the Veterans Council; Lt. Chris Bourke; and Sgt. Dean Covis, treasurer of the Deputy Sheriff’s.
“We decided it was a worthy cause,” said Fuller, who served in the Marine Corps.
The Veterans Council has six vans that it uses to take veterans to medical appointments. Three of the vans have more than 100,000 miles. The group is pictured in front of a recently acquired van with about 23,000 miles. Fulcomer is hopeful more donations will come in to replace one of the older vans.
“What better way to help the veterans who have served our country,” Bourke said.
The Veterans Council acquires and owns the vans, and the VA pays for the gas and maintenance. The service is free to veterans.
Press release, Congressman Chris Collins Posted 10 April 2014
Congressman Chris Collins voted today in support of the House Republican Budget, including a provision that he secured to protect Medicare Advantage from future cuts.
“I was proud to vote for a budget that makes necessary reforms and structural changes to Medicare in 2024 to strengthen the current program and sustain it for future generations,” Collins said. “To protect Medicare Advantage, I personally fought for a provision to prevent cuts to this program so many WNY seniors rely on.”
The Republican House Budget balances in 10 years, saves taxpayers $5 trillion by shrinking big government and cutting wasteful spending, and reduces the country’s historic debt.
“The House Republican Budget does what so few Washington budget proposals do – it actually balances,” said Congressman Collins. “The American people understand we cannot keep borrowing money from China to pay our bills, bankrupting our children and grandchildren’s future in the process.”
In an effort to get the economy moving and leave taxpayers with more of their hard-earned money, the House Republican Budget also includes significant tax reform including lowering the top individual and corporate tax rates to 25 percent, and eliminating special-interest tax loopholes and the Alternative Minimum Tax. The Budget also protects Americans who have been hurt by ObamaCare.
“The GOP Budget includes tax reform to bring down rates and level the playing field for small businesses and hard working families,” said Congressman Collins. “And it relieves the burdens of ObamaCare for the countless Americans who have seen their premiums skyrocket, their coverage dropped, or their hours cut.”
The House Republican Budget was passed by a vote of 219 to 205.
“Those opposed to the GOP Budget will demonize it and suggest Congress continue to kick the can down the road. The American people want Washington to get its head out of the sand and deal with our out-of-control spending and staggering debt. The House Republican Budget does just that," Collins said.
By Tom Rivers, editor Posted 9 April 2014
ALBION – The Ultimate Fishing Town will be giving Vietnam War veterans the Ultimate Fishing Experience on June 25.
On that day at least 11 charter boat captains will take Vietnam veterans who live in Orleans County out on Lake Ontario for the chance to catch a big Chinook salmon and other fish.
The Point Breeze fishing community and Orleans County Tourism Department are joining for the five-hour fishing trip, which will be free for veterans.
Mike Waterhouse, the county’s sportsfishing coordinator, wants to express appreciation for the Vietnam War veterans who were often treated with disrespect when they returned home after their service.
“I can think of no other group of service men and women that were so underappreciated for their service to our country,” Waterhouse told the County Legislature today.
Point Breeze won the Ultimate Fishing Town contest last year in an on-line voting competition through the World Fishing Network. The WFN awarded the community $25,000 to promote the fishery.
Part of the that money will be used to give the charter captains a stipend for their gas and expenses for the fishing trip on June 25. The charter captains have volunteered their time to be part of the event.
Four or five veterans can fit on each charter boat. The trip is open on a first come, first served basis with a deadline set at May 30. Veterans interested should contact Waterhouse by phone at 585-589-3103 or by email at email@example.com.
The local committee that is deciding how to spend the $25,000 prize includes Waterhouse, Sharon Narburgh, Joyce Harris, John Denniston, Mark Lewis and Bill Camann.
Paul Fulcomer form the Veterans Service Agency is assisting with the Ultimate Fishing Challenge. The initiative also includes support from State Assemblyman Steve Hawley’s office, Ken DeRoller from County Legislature and Wayne Hale from the County Planning and Tourism Department.
Press release, Arc of Orleans County Posted 8 April 2014
ALBION – The Arc of Orleans has received a $10,000 grant from the NYSARC Trust Services Board for recreational opportunities for people they support.
Last year The Arc received a similar grant from NYSARC Trust Services. Sixty-four individuals with developmental or other disabilities benefited from the 2013 funding. They were able to participate in many great activities they normally wouldn’t have been able to without the NYSARC Trust Recreation Grant.
They attended the Ringling Brothers Circus, Monster Jam, a Buffalo Bills Game, several movies, and eight individuals enjoyed a gym membership for three months. The grant also paid for outings to a Rochester Amerks Game, Stokee Farms, the Lucille Ball Museum, Hamburg Lights, and Rochester Museum & Science Center.
Arc consumers also attended a showing of The Grinch, Polar Express and The Wizard of Oz. They ended the year with a holiday celebration at the Historic Tillman’s Inn. The Arc of Orleans County plans to use the funds in the same fashion this year.
By Tom Rivers, editor Posted 4 April 2014
ALBION – A new report puts Orleans County near the top of the list for the best-run counties in the state.
The county has a low debt per capita, doesn’t overspend its budget, has a strong rating from Moody’s, and hasn’t neglected infrastructure maintenance, according to the study in the New York State Bar Association.
The study includes a new set of metrics for evaluating a county. James Coffey, Dr. Robert Christopherson and Patrick Bowen presented the results of their study in the winter issue of the New York State Bar Association’s Municipal Lawyer.
The authors urged municipal attorneys to weigh the factors in the report as they advise municipal boards. The authors say many elected officials don’t look at the long-term health of a government. That includes tackling needed infrastructure projects without taking on too much debt. That may mean raising taxes to maintain and improve the community, the authors said.
The report is critical of “those leaders who cut taxes irresponsibly while allowing the infrastructure of the community they represent to deteriorate.”
They argued that municipalities must be profitable, or they risk bankruptcy. Well-run governments also promote confidence in their communities, spurring investments in housing and businesses.
Orleans is the fourth-rated county in the report, with Herkimer the top-rated followed by Clinton and Seneca. Delaware rounds out the top five.
The five lowest of 62 counties ranked include Nassau, Rockland, Suffolk, Westchester and Saratoga. Those counties have budgets where their revenue doesn’t cover expenditures. They also have high debt per capita, which results in a larger percentage of tax money going to interest payments rather than directly to services.
Orleans carries a per capita debt of $347 per person, compared to $1,286 in Westchester County and $3,026 in Nassau. Orleans, from 2008 to 2012, also underspent its revenues by 2.68 percent a year. Saratoga was over by 6.08 percent and Nassau went over by 13.28 percent.
“We’ve been conservatively run for a long time,” said Chuck Nesbitt, the county’s chief administrative officer.
The county’s budget for 2014 totals $79.8 million. That includes a first-time debt payment of $475,000 for an upgraded emergency communication system.
Nesbitt said the county is looking at other projects, including new roofs for the County Administration Building and Public Safety Building. It also has 68 bridges and about 500 culverts in its inventory.
The county has an A1 rating from Moody’s, which County Treasurer Susan Heard said, “is a great rating for a county our size.”
Moody’s gives the county a high rating partly because of a low debt burden and a stable tax base. Moody’s has recommended a larger fund balance for the county. Orleans has about $5 million in reserve funds, but Heard said county legislators have opted to not raise taxes to grow the reserve funds.
“It could be higher but the county has chosen to instead lower taxes,” she said.
By Tom Rivers, editor Posted 4 April 2014
The new state budget includes $40 million to help municipalities patch roads after the harsh winter. Orleans County municipalities will receive about $250,000 of the “Extreme Winter Recovery Grants,” state Sen. George Maziarz announced today.
The county, villages and towns in Orleans County already receive about $2.5 million in state money through the Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program or CHIPS. Those state funds help municipalities with surface improvements on locally-controlled thoroughfares.
In this year’s budget, between CHIPs increases and the EWR grants, Orleans County local governments received aid increases of between 9 percent and 12 percent over last year, Maziarz said.
“As Orleans County residents know, this last winter did a lot of damage to our streets and roads,” Maziarz said. “As a result, we are driving record amounts of aid to local governments so we can help them fix potholes and patch road surfaces. I made this a priority in our budget negotiations and I’m glad we were successful.”
Below is a list of Orleans County municipalities and the street repair funding they are receiving this year:
Press release, GCC Posted 4 April 2014
BATAVIA – Plans for a new Student Success Center and College and Community Event Center at Genesee Community College have received crucial support from the State of New York.
The new state budget includes funding for the two new buildings at GCC. The state has committed to paying half of the cost of construction. (Click here to see renderings of the buildings.)
“This endorsement of our project by state leaders is certainly exciting news,” said GCC President Dr. James Sunser. “We are grateful for the support of all of our GLOW-area elected state officials. I have no doubt that their support and tenacity helped to secure the funding.”
Plans for the two new buildings grew out of the College’s Facilities Master Plan, which studied current and future needs. The structures are meant to transform the campus in unique ways, supporting the GCC’s academic mission and vision which focuses on three key areas: promoting student success, partnering with the community and maintaining facilities in a cost-effective manner.
The Student Success Center will bring together in one place all the services students need to get their college education started, including the enrollment, admissions, advisement, financial aid and course registration, as well as a variety of other educational and career services. The Student Success Center will be constructed adjacent and attached by a second story bridge to the Conable Technology Building creating a true, outdoor campus quad around the Clock Tower Plaza. The project cost is approximately $5 million.
The state-of-the-art College and Community Event Center expands opportunities for the College to further partner with the community by accommodating a wide variety of events, conferences and sporting activities. At 43,000 square feet the facility will have the largest expanse of public floor space in the four-county region and will attract as many as 500,000 visitors annually. The cost is estimated at just under $14 million.
Just as important as the two new Batavia Campus buildings is the conversion of vacated space into classrooms, labs and other instructional space for critical new academic programs. One of the college’s key priorities is the development of programs that meet emerging workforce needs in the Genesee-Livingston-Orleans-Wyoming region, and help graduates obtain local jobs.
Programs on the horizon include Food Processing Technology, and other agri-business and technology-related programs. The college also plans to begin preparing students for careers in nanotechnology in anticipation of the establishment of the STAMP project in the Genesee County town of Alabama.
With the state funding in place, remaining costs will be covered by the College’s sponsor, Genesee County, and by generous donors who are supporting the Creating Our Future Together Capital Campaign.
“The campaign gives our supporters the opportunity to powerfully leverage their gifts,” said Richard Ensman, director of Development and External Affairs. “Every dollar contributed in support of the campaign leverages more than $5 in other project support—a great incentive to give.”
By Tom Rivers, editor Posted 2 April 2014
The new state budget gives local school districts sizable increases in state aid, money that districts will use to maintain existing programs and also hold down taxes.
Four of the five school districts don’t expect to raise taxes. Kendall, which is considering a 1.9 percent tax increase, may direct some of the state funding for needed technology and safety improvements, said Nadine Hanlon, president of the Board of Education.
Kendall last year cut school taxes by $1 million, reducing the average tax rate from $21.51 to $17.45 per $1,000 of assessed property.
The board will meet on April 9 and plans to adopt a budget that will go before voters on May 20.
The other four school districts don’t plan to raise taxes and will maintain their existing programs for students.
Here is a chart showing a breakdown of the operating aid:
|Albion||$21,119,870||$22,068,308||$948,438 (4.5 %)|
|$392,526 (3.4 %)|
|Kendall||$8,371,851||$8,849,868||$478,017 (5.7 %)|
|Lyndonville||$6,343,885||$6,529,304||$185,419 (2.9 %)|
|Medina||$18,517,756||$19,863,426||$1,345,670 (7.3 %)|
|Orleans County||$65,981,233||$69,331,303||$3,350,070 (5.0 %)|
The governor proposed smaller aid increases for the schools, ranging from 0.1 percent for Lyndonville to 3.3 percent for Medina. The State Legislature pushed for more and got it.
“We were very pleased to see the numbers,” said Michael Bonnewell, Albion Central School superintendent. “It will fill our gap. We’ll certainly have what we need to continue our current programs.”
Bonnewell and school administrators will recommend a budget to the Board of Education on Monday that doesn’t increase property taxes.
Based on the governor’s budget that proposed a 2 percent increase in aid, Albion was looking at a $139,000 gap to maintain current programs and not raise taxes. That $139,000 would have raised taxes by 1.6 percent. The Legislature gave Albion a 4.5 percent increase or about $500,000 more than the governor’s budget.
Some of that increase may go into a reserve fund to be used in the future or to help with any unexpected expenses.
Holley was already planning to cut school taxes by 10.6 percent or $800,000. The governor proposed a $153,466 or 1.3 percent increase for Holley. The final budget boosted Holley’s operating aid by $392,000 or 3.4 percent.
Robert D’Angelo, the district superintendent, said he will soon meet with the Board of Education to discuss how to best use the additional state aid.
The $800,00 tax cut will reduce residents’ tax rate from $25.11 to a projected $22.44 per $1,000 of assessed property.
The governor’s budget gave Lyndonville a tiny increase of $946 in additional operating aid. The final budget gives Lyndonville a $185,419 increase. That is enough to hold taxes steady, said Jason Smith, the district superintendent.
“At this point, the district is considering a 0 percent increase on the tax levy, and the district is not looking to add staff or programs,” he said. “We will continue to invest resources in our instructional program to meet the increased demands of the Common Core and the Regents Reform Agenda.”
Medina will see the biggest increase in state aid, a 7.3 percent jump or an additional $1,345,670. The governor proposed a 3.3 percent increase.
Medina won’t be adding staff or programs and won’t seek a tax increase, said Jeff Evoy, the district superintendent.
“This additional money certainly helps and we are appreciative, but we will still be using appropriated fund balance and reserves to support our expenditures next year,” Evoy said. “Our goal is to maintain existing programs. However, all expenses will be carefully monitored.”
Cuomo proposed an $807 million increase in education aid for schools in 2014-15, a 3.8 percent increase. The state Legislature boosted that number to a $1.1 billion hike.
Press release, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer Posted 2 April 2014
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer is urging the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the sharp increase in electric prices that residents across Upstate New York have been forced to pay over the course of this winter – and that they will continue to pay for several more months.
Schumer is calling for an investigation by the FTC, which works to promote consumer protection and eliminate anti-competitive business practices, in light of the fact that electric bills have risen to extremely high rates this winter – including bills that came close to doubling in some parts of Upstate New York.
Schumer noted the example of a Syracuse-area National Grid customer who was charged $67.68 in February 2013 and $65.02 in March 2013, and then charged $84.58 in February 2014 and $106.80 in March 2014 – despite using substantially less electricity than last year over the same period.
Utilities throughout the state have attributed the increase to record-low temperatures and high demand for natural gas, but Schumer said that the size of the rate increases were so high that he is concerned it outpaced the actual increase in wholesale energy costs for utilities.
Therefore, he is asking the FTC, in conjunction with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the Department of Justice (DOJ), should it become necessary, to investigate the entire wholesale electric and natural gas markets to ensure that these markets were on the level, and that customers were not being improperly overcharged.
Schumer explained that there are multiple ways utilities or natural gas providers could artificially inflate electric bills – including withholding natural gas from the market or overcharging ratepayers – and asked the FTC to look into all possible angles as part of its investigation. The NYS Public Service Commission (PSC) has similar concerns, and also petitioned FERC to investigate.
“As the thermostat went down this winter, electric bills shot up,” Schumer said. “It is typical for electric bills to go up during the winter months, but this year’s sky-high increases are more than what would be expected.”
According to an AARP Report “David v. Goliath; Why consumers are losing New York’s utility game,” New York’s investor-owned utilities and the Long Island Power Authority charge some of the highest rates in the country. In September 2013, New York’s residential customers paid 19.57 cents/kwh, which is 56% higher than the national average and the second most expensive after Hawaii. And, prices rose from September 2012.
According to media reports, data collected from actual customers for each utility, and other sources, electric rates at the major utilities have skyrocketed this winter:
• National Grid – on average, about 60-75 percent increase this winter;
• NYSEG – on average, about 10-15 percent increase this winter;
• RG&E – on average, about 15 percent increase this winter;
• Con Ed – on average, about 20-25 percent increase this winter;
• Central Hudson – on average, about 35 percent increase this winter;
• Long Island (PSEG) – on average, about 25 percent increase this winter.
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