Category Archives: Featured Stories

Oswego County budget approved

The Oswego County Legislature adopted the 2014 county budget Thursday night by a vote of 17 to 8.

Three Republican legislators joined the five Democrats in voting against the spending plan. Those voting ‘no’ were Michael Kunzwiler, Amy Tresidder and Jacob Mulcahey, Democrats from Oswego; Douglas Malone, D-Oswego Town; Daniel Farfaglia, D-Fulton; Margaret Kastler, R-Lacona; Shawn Doyle, R-Pulaski; and Daniel Chalifoux, R-Minetto.

The legislature approved amendments totaling about $177,000 before adopting the final budget. The final budget totals about $197 million.

The tax levy — the amount to be raised by taxes — increased $17,894 with the amendments. The tax rate will be $7.19 per $1,000 of assessed value, compared to $7.10 per $1,000 in 2013.

Legislators also approved a pilot project brought to them by District Attorney Gregory Oakes to spend $26,000 to hire an outside lawyer to handle all of the county’s appeals of felony convictions. Currently, one of the assistant district attorneys in the county DA’s office handles the appeals. Oakes said if this lawyer instead spends all her time on prosecuting felony cases in county court, cases will be able to move through the system at a quicker pace, alleviating the amount of time defendants are spending in the county jail.

Oakes said this could lead to fewer people in the county jail at any one time. Sheriff Reuel Todd has had problems for the last three years with overcrowding and has had to send inmates to other jails at a huge expense to Oswego County.

2 dead in Palermo car crash

Two people have died in a two-car crash on State Route 3 in Palermo, the Oswego County Sheriff’s office said Thursday.

The crash occurred at about 8 a.m. today, Dec. 12. Deputies said a 1998 Buick occupied by three people was northbound on Route 3. The operator lost control of the vehicle and drove into the path of a southbound 2006 Chevrolet Trailblazer. The collision caused the deaths of two passengers of the Buick and injury to the operator.

The driver of the Chevrolet was treated and released at the scene. The driver of the Buick was transported to University Hospital in Syracuse for treatment. Names of all involved being held pending notifications of the families.

Members of teh state police, Palermo Fire Department, Mexico Fire Department and McFee and Menter ambulances assisted at the scene. The investigation is continuing.

Public hearing Thursday Dec. 12 on proposed 2014 county budget

By Debra J. Groom

A public hearing on the 2014 Oswego County budget is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday in Oswego.

The proposed 2014 spending plan $196.8 million. The tax levy — the amount to be raised by taxes — is $42.6 million, the same as in 2013.

This means most people in the county would pay about 9 cents more per $1,000 of assessed valuation in 2014.

For a house assessed at $70,000, that would be an additional $6.30 for the year.

The rate would be $7.19 per $1,000, compared to $7.10 per $1,000 in 2013.

The county Legislature’s Personnel and Finance committee approved the budget Dec. 3.

No one on the committee made any comments or suggestions for changes in the budget or cuts that could be made during that meeting.

After the public hearing, the full Legislature can  make cuts or additions to the budget. The Legislature may vote to adopt the budget thta night.

The budget portion of the meeting is at 7 p.m. in the legislative chambers in the county office building.

Earlier in the day, at 2 p.m., the legislature will have the first part of its regular monthly meeting and will tackle other issues such as:

1) Vote on whether to ban the state of New York from using the county seal, name or letterhead for any purpose associated with the SAFE Act.

The SAFE Act was enacted in January to strengthen gun laws in the state by requiring universal background checks to buy guns and increasing penalties for people using illegal guns. According to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the law “imposes the toughest assault weapons ban in the country.”

The law has been unpopular in many parts of the state, including Oswego County.

Many lawful gun owners, including sportsmen and hunters, believe the law infringes on their rights to own guns.

Oswego County Clerk Michael Backus said he voted in November for a resolution banning the state from using county seals in his SAFE Act promotions.

“I voted for, and the (state) Clerks Association unanimously passed, a resolution opposed to the use of county seals regarding the SAFE Act,” Backus said.

“Quite honestly, it’s another example of how flawed this law is that the governor shoved through the legislature,” Backus said. “It was advertised to have no financial impact on counties and that has been proven to be false.”

Part of the law allows a list of a county’s gunowners names to be released to the public unless the gunowners fill out a form opting out.

This is costing counties money — namely about $26,144 in Oswego County, Backus said.

“That figure covers shifting staff time to cover pistol permits, additional staff hours, and increased supply costs,” Backus said. “Those numbers correlate with a 60 percent increase in pistol permit transactions as compared with 2012. Background checks alone are up over 112 percent.

“As you can see, the SAFE Act most certain has a local cost that was not anticpated and has been largely dismissed by the governor,” Backus said.

A television report recently stated some counties are trying to get the state to reimburse them for these costs.

Reports in other media say the state wants to use county seals in letters to pistol permit holders concerning the permit recertificaion process.

But counties have nothing to do with recertification — the new law has turned this duty over to the State Police.

2) Vote on a resolution to impose a dog quarantine in the county through April so dogs do not run loose and harass or attack deer in the wild.

3) Vote on contracts with two firms dealing with collecting appraisal information used in the tax certiorari court proceeding with Entergy for the James FitzPatrick Nuclear Plant.

The two firms are George Sansoucy LLC and Cost Plus Consulting LLC.

Public hearing Dec. 11 on proposed new water district in Hannibal

A public hearing is scheduled for today (Dec. 11) at the Hannibal town hall concerning a proposed new water district.

Hannibal Supervisor Ronald Greenleaf said the town recently submitted an application for funding for a water district.

Town officials have been notified the town is eligible for money from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development.

Before funding will be committed, a final application must be submitted.

The estimated funding includes a grant of $697,000 and a loan of $760,000 at 2.75 percent for this $1,457,000 project.

As part of the project, the town must hold a public hearing to explain the project and projected user costs, as well as to obtain input from you whether to proceed or not.

Greenleaf said about 75 properties are involved in the project.

It would connect the two ends of Stock Road that already have water and would provide wter to Sixty-Six Road south of Route 104 to Dunham Road.

He said the cost to property owners would be about $638 a year for 38 years in addition to water usage.

He said it isn’t known yet if this cost would include the hookup of the water line to the house.

All of these properties now are on wells, Greenleaf said.

Sometimes in dry summers, the wells will go dry, he said.

“There is a need” for water in these areas, he said.

View from the Assembly — let’s fix the tax code

It is widely understood that New York state is a high-tax state.

New York state citizens are acutely aware of this fact. It is hardly surprising then that the governor, being the politician that he is, has appointed not one, but two, commissions to examine how to reform New York’s tax system.

The first commission he appointed, with the Orwellian name, “New York State Tax Reform and Fairness Commission,” released its report last month. Notwithstanding its name, the report contains some good ideas on how New York should reform its tax structure.

The report begins by acknowledging we are a high-tax state.  In the 2012-13 fiscal year, state and local governments levied about $146 billion in taxes.

Of that $146 billion, $64 billion is attributable to state taxes and the remaining $82 billion came from local tax collections.

Of the $82 billion raised in local taxes, $49 billion was raised through property taxes.

Although the report raises the issue of local taxes, the majority of its suggested changes deal with reforming our state’s tax system, not our local tax systems.

First, the report acknowledges the state’s use and sales tax system is antiquated and needs to be modernized. I agree with this conclusion.

At the very least, we need to simplify the system. I have heard from many small businesses about how difficult it is for them to understand exactly on what they need to collect sales tax.

For example, if you sell bagels, you do not charge sales tax on plain bagels, but if you toast it, slice it and put butter on it, then you must charge sales tax.

There are all sorts of inane examples along these lines that businesses encounter on a regular basis. The report states the structure is “unduly complex” and makes “voluntary compliance more difficult, increasing the cost of doing business in the state and creates financial risk for vendors who ‘get it wrong’ and adds to the government’s tax administration costs.”

If nothing else, in the upcoming legislative session, we should make revenue neutral changes to our sales tax system to take out much of the complexity that has arisen over the years.

Second, the report also acknowledges our state’s estate tax has not kept pace with changes made to federal estate tax laws.

As characteristic of our high-tax reputation, New York is one of only 17 states that has an estate tax. Moreover, there are only two states that have estate tax exemption amounts lower than New York’s $1 million amount.

I was pleased the report notes New York’s estate tax may be a factor in taxpayer migration from New York to states without an estate tax.

In Central New York, we have seen many change their residency to Florida (a state without an estate tax) in effort to avoid NY’s estate tax.

It is hard enough competing with Florida on the basis of the weather. We shouldn’t also be giving people an economic incentive to move there.

To try to alleviate this problem, the commission recommends in its report to raise New York’s exemption from $1 million to $3 million.

This is a start.  However, I would rather see us eliminate our estate tax entirely or, at the very least, match the exemption amount to the federal amount which is $5.25 million.

Third, the commission recommends an accelerated phase out of the 18-a surcharge. This surcharge is a 2 percent assessment on electric, gas, water and steam utilities.

Like all taxes on businesses, they are passed on to the consumers. This assessment is no different. It places an additional burden on New York families and businesses because we already pay high utility bills notwithstanding our taxes.

In last year’s budget, the legislature and governor agreed to phase out this charge over a three-and-a-half-year period. As mentioned, the commission recommends phasing this out more quickly because it has such a detrimental effect, particularly on businesses.

I agree and indeed sponsor legislation to fully repeal this surcharge.

The commission also recommends many other changes to our state’s tax code. Some of its other recommendations I agree with, some I do not.

However, I am pleased at least there is some focus being brought to what is a primary economic problem in our state.

As mentioned above, the governor also has appointed a second commission to look at our state’s tax system.

Apparently, this second commission is supposed to focus on coming up with proposals to relieve New Yorkers from our high property tax burden.

I look forward to seeing its proposals and hope that they will be broad based.

Solutions will have to get at the reasons why we have high property taxes in this state and not simply shift the burden of our taxes from one group of citizens to another.

I will provide an update once their report becomes available.

If you have any questions or comments on this or any other state issue, or if you would like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, please contact my office.

My office can be reached by mail at 200 N. Second St., Fulton, 13069, by email at barclaw@assembly.state.ny.us or by calling 598-5185.

You can also friend me, Assemblyman Barclay, on Facebook.

Seguin named manager at ARISE

Lisa Seguin has been named manager of the Oswego Medicaid Service Coordination, Consolidated Support Services, and Family Support Services programs for ARISE in Oswego.

Seguin’s experiences and strong commitment to the mission of independent living and self-direction make her extremely well-suited for this role.

She began her career with ARISE in 2003 as a Medicaid Service Coordinator (MSC).

Two years later she became a senior MSC.

This year she was approved as a broker and began to provide Office of Persons with Developmental Disabilities trainings.

In the community, Seguin is known for her work on the Family Support Services Council in Oswego as well as on the state level.

She pursued self-directed services (Consolidated Support Services) for her daughter Kateri, who has Down syndrome, when this option was first introduced in Central New York.

The families that work with Lisa have commented on her good listening skills, compassion and her passion for focusing on the abilities and strengths of everyone with whom she works.

Volney students ‘on a roll’

Volney Elementary School students were treated to a spirit assembly Nov. 26 in recognition of their positive behavior and for being role models.

The entire student body united in the auditorium to sing “You Can Count on Me” prior to Interim Principal Michael Egan recognizing one student from each classroom for exemplifying the character trait of gratitude.

In addition to the classroom role models, 22 students were awarded certificates for being “On A Roll” models.

The monthly classroom role models were Brady Jacobson, Zackery McDougall, Branden Garner, Cassie Clarke, Santina Cunningham, MaKenna Grant, Gabriella Runge, Hunter Riebel, Zachary Ranieri, Nicholas Shaw, Ben Roberts, Noah Morales, Amara Fischel, Mallorie Smart, Brandon Burch, Erin Phillips, Destiny Miller, Rain Frank, Alicia Merritt, Emily Tice and Heidie Hall.

Students earning recognition as the monthly “On a Roll” models included Hunter Stein, Ellie-Mae Barnum, Deven Searor, Aiden St. Germain, Cadyn Reed, Danielle Boyce, Mackenzie Kerfien, Amber Dumas, Sydni Casler, Daymon Hooper, Alex Knapp, Lexis Casler-West, Ethan Jacobson, Sydney Osborn, Noelle McDougall, Serenity Lauckarn, Logan Wilson, Kalista Reynolds, Mason Williamson, Isabella Robillard, Travis Loomis, and Robert Moon.

To cap off the assembly and get the audience ready for Thanksgiving, Jessica Hyman, Lyle Beeman and Cassandra Seaton read “Giving Thanks” as a slideshow played in the background.