It's school budget vote day in New York state... and, the Jamestown-area's first district to allow voters to cast their ballots will again be Southwestern. That district's voters will decide on a 25.8-million dollar budget that raises taxes by about 2.44-percent. Polls will be open at the high school from 7 to 9 this morning. New Superintendent Maureen Donahue says spending is up from 2012-2013 by about 118-thousand dollars. Donahue says there were a number of factors that led to the spending increase... including rising pension, and health insurance costs. However... she says there were some cuts, too. Donahue says the loss of state Foundation -- or base -- aid over the past five years has been the biggest driver of increased costs. She says the district is seeing a just over 8-percent increase in foundation aid in 2013-2014... due in large part to a 417-thousand dollar restoration in the district's -- "gap elimination adjustment." Donahue says the 2.44-percent tax increase... including exclusions... comes in under the state's 2-percent property tax cap. Polls at Southwestern will also be open from 2 PM to 9 PM tonight. Residents in the Southwestern District will also vote on a transportation proposition to purchase three new buses. Donahue says the cost is to not exceed 216-thousand dollars. Donahue says one is a full-sized bus... while the other two are 14-passenger vehicles. In addition... there's one school seat up for a vote. There were to be three... but, Donahue reminds voters that they approved cutting the school board from 9 to 7 members. Incumbant Bill Burk is seeking re-election.
Falconer School District residents will vote today on a 21.6-million dollar budget for the new school year. School Superintendent Steve Penhollow says the spending plan includes a 2.5-percent tax increase over the current year's spending plan. However... Penhollow says -- with exclusions -- the increase still falls under the state's 2-percent property tax cap. Except for a couple of mandated areas... he says they were able to hold the line on spending. He says school officials tried to be as "balanced" as they could be in laying out the budget.
Some districts have taken up the state on it's offer to use "pension-smoothing" to hold down costs... but, Penhollow says... Falconer school officials decided that was not "a good option" for them. He says the 2.25-percent cut they would get would -- at some point -- have to be paid to the state... with interest. Penhollow says there are no other propositions on the ballot... and, two people are running for two board seats. One is current board President Todd Beckerink. Voting in Falconer is from 2 to 8 PM today.
City lawmakers have overwhelmingly approved five measures officials say will help save the city on it's health... property and liability insurance costs. Four of the five were unanimous... and, four are with the same company as last year. Finance Committee Chairman Tony Dolce says the moves will also save the city money... and, improve the efficiency of it's insurance programs. The lone change was in Jamestown's "stop-loss" program that covers health care costs above the amount set on each worker. In that case... Dolce says the contract went to H-M Premier Company... instead of Veracity. City Comptroller Joe Bellitto says they'll have about a 10-thousand dollar savings with Premier handling their "stop-loss" program. The ceiling for that is 150-thousand dollars. However... lawmakers voted to keep Veracity -- which is in Jamestown -- for consulting and employee benefit services. Councilwoman Kim Ecklund voted "no" on that measure. Ecklund says she has some questions on the service contract she wanted more answers to. She feels Veracity has done a "very good" job for the city in the past... her issue was more with not having one of the two companies take both the "stop-loss" and consulting and employee services.
The local TEA Party group did not seek the "tax-exempt" status from the IRS... but, will be joining in a peaceful, nation-wide protest outside IRS offices this afternoon. Southern Tier TEA Party Express spokesman Mel McGinnis is urging local members... and, others from the public... to join them at East Third Street and Prendergast Avenue in Jamestown at 12 Noon. There were also a number of high-profile conservatives that were reportedly targeted by the IRS. McGinnis says the local TEA Party organization made an early decision to NOT file for 501(c)4 status that would have made them tax-exempt. He says they kept themselves "away from the IRS as much as possible." However... he says they wanted to demonstrate in support of TEA Party groups that were targeted. McGinnis remembers hearing stories "two or three-years ago" that the IRS was asking intrusive questions about local and national TEA Party organizations when they filed for 501(c) 4 status. He says now that the allegations have been found to be factual... it's upsetting.
The resignation of a New York state lawmaker embroiled in a sex harassment scandal has become official a month earlier than he had originally planned. Assemblyman Vito Lopez of Brooklyn announced on Saturday that his resignation from the 53rd Assembly District seat is effective as of 9 this (Monday). The surprise announcement came just a day after the 72-year-old Democrat defied demands by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Governor Andrew Cuomo to resign immediately.