State mandates raise the cost of education
Recent articles in the media regarding education seem to be one-sided. Gov. Andrew Cuomo is riding a wave criticizing public schools for not doing a good job. As schools receive less state aid, districts have cut programs and increased class size. The governor claims that teachers and administrators are overpaid and that one way to save money is to consolidate districts. However, recent discussions suggest it won't save the money that district taxpayers are expecting.
The area that Cuomo and legislators refuse to discuss is mandates that were put in place years ago that cost school districts millions of dollars. The Triborough Amendment guarantees a step raise every year. A district can be in negotiations without a signed contract, but at the end of the year, the employees get a raise. If a contract is eventually signed for a 2 percent raise, and the step is 2 percent, it's a 4 percent raise. Again, the step increase is a state mandate.
Another mandate from Albany is the reimbursement of the pension fund for all state employees, including teachers. The pension fund is invested in the stock market and if the market takes a downturn and loses money, your local school district has to help make up the losses. For example, in 2003 the Cheektowaga Central School District payment to the pension fund was $39,600 for all of the district employees. By 2006 it was $686,000 and this year it will be $1,180,000, with fewer employees.
It's sad that the governor set another mandate of the 2 percent property tax cap to rein in district expenses. However, he won't discuss these mandates and others set by the paid politicians in Albany, and not by the local school district. The governor claims to be a lobbyist for the school children of New York. If that is the case, then the children need a refund.
County should open Akron Falls Park now
Record warm weather these past few months enticed people into Western New York county parks, but to the disappointment of many residents and visitors to Akron Falls Park, the gates to entrances of the most beautiful areas of the park have remained locked.
While it is understood that there is a shortage of park workers in the off-season, and park restrooms don't open until mid-April for fear of pipes freezing and bursting during a cold snap, which we haven't had that much of this winter, it is certainly a disappointment that the gates to the park have remained locked during this mild weather.
Don't waste money on wind turbines
I was literally blown away by The News editorial "Harness the wind." Accepting wind energy's inefficiencies and unreliability, yet endorsing it, makes no sense. Wind is not a good deal for pursuing alternative energy.
As a leading opponent to industrial wind turbines in Lake Erie, the issues were not that they were going to be sited too close to shore or an obstruction to fishermen. We understood the New York Power Authority plan and fishermen knew the environmental negatives. Global experience proves there are no environmental or economic benefits from industrial-scale wind energy. In addition, the facts do not support the wind industry's claims for jobs per megawatt.
We opposed placing wind turbines in Lake Erie because they are an environmental nightmare. Birds, bats and even eagles struggling to make a comeback along Lake Erie will become casualties. Wind turbines cannot reduce carbon dioxide emissions. They must be backed up by power plants, which cannot efficiently cycle on and off at the whim of the wind.
There is no question that wind turbines have a huge impact on the aesthetics of the view. Wind turbines have an impact not only on those who live with the view but also those who will be impacted by the loss of income from people coming here to enjoy the unencumbered lake vistas and sunsets.
Wasting time, resources and money on wind turbines is not a boost for renewable energy. What is so renewable about wind turbines that require oil to make many of the component parts and tons of rare earth minerals for magnets? This just scratches the surface of the non-renewable wind turbines. Finally, the question is: Why add such an economic and environmental burden on New Yorkers for an energy source that cannot replace any conventional fossil fuel source, or reduce carbon dioxide?
Executive Director, Great Lakes Wind Truth; New York Director, Great Lakes Sport Fishing Council
So-called experts make mistakes sometimes
I want to pay a fair amount of taxes, have a strong military and give people a hand up, not a hand out. I am pro-choice in order to save a woman's life or in cases of rape and incest. I want companies to pay their fair share of taxes, and high-income people as well, but when I hear that the bottom 50 percent pay nothing, that sounds unfair. How can you start a small business with all of these taxes and restrictions?
The war in Iraq was not a lie; it was an intelligence failure -- like the Soviets invading Afghanistan; not knowing the nukes were already in place in Cuba; the U.S.-Soviet Missile Gap, which didn't exist; and the fake Gulf of Tonkin incident that took us fully into war with Vietnam. At times, the so-called experts get it wrong.
We must put limits on IDAs' authority
In regard to a recent letter to the editor criticizing legislation proposed by Assemblyman Sean Ryan that would place limits on the authority of local industrial development agencies, it's hard to fathom why anyone would object. No one is suggesting, as the writer proposed, that these IDAs don't help the towns that operate them. The problem is that these towns are giving away tax monies that are not theirs to give, and the rest of us have to make up the difference. This is patently unfair.
Amherst Supervisor Barry Weinstein recently admitted that he voted for a tax exemption for a project in his town simply because his residents would have to pay only 1 percent of the total cost. The other 99 percent would be paid by those of us who live outside the Town of Amherst.
It is clearly the right of each town or village to exempt anyone it wishes from paying taxes that it imposes, and Ryan's bill would not affect this right in any way.
However, the current situation, in which a local IDA can increase my tax burden without my approval sounds suspiciously like taxation without representation, something that was once referred to as a form of tyranny by a certain founding father.