Category Archives: Featured Stories

What does Cuomo’s tax rebate plan really mean?

By Debra J. Groom

In his 2014-15 state budget presentation, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he will provide $1 billion for property tax relief.

At a recent Oswego County Legislature meeting, Oswego County Administrator Philip Church broke down the proposal on what it would mean for Oswego County residents.

In a 13-page analysis, Church said there are many unanswered questions as to how this tax relief will work and how it will be funded.

He said using the county’s tax levies (the amount raised by taxes) for operations, community college and workers compensation, residents with an average Oswego County home valued at $94,500 would receive a rebate of about $16.

And because the tax relief would affect all taxing jurisdictions (county, town, city, village, school districts), the full rebate would be less than $74.

This would be a two-year rebate, Church said.

He believes the state should take the money Cuomo wants for tax relief and instead of one-time rebates, put it toward permanent mandate relief.

This mandate relief would be reducing the cost of programs the state makes the county pay each year. Church said this would help taxpayers by reducing their property tax burden permanently.

“Many counties and the New York State Association of Counties are proposing this alternative method to provide property tax reductions to New Yorkers,” Church wrote in his analysis.

“The alternative consists of the state taking over the costs of four of its own programs: Medicaid, indigent defense, preschool special education and Safety Net,” he said.

Church said if the state paid for these programs, the reductions to the average Oswego County taxpayer’s bill would be about $514.

He also believes if the state pays for the programs itself, it would be forced to reform services.

Other problems with Cuomo’s tax rebate plan, according to Church:

** It is only temporary

** Rebates are reportable as income on federal income tax returns, “diminishing the overall financial benefit,” he writes.

** The cost of implementing the rebate program isn’t known. Church said the state will use tax levy data to compute the rebates and “the bureaucracy needed to collect, record and organize all tax levy date in the state” and then determine each homeowner’s eligibility and tax rebate will be large and a large cost to taxpayers.

** The state is operating now on tax levy data from 2012, stating this is the most recent data the state has. “How will the state be able to calculate rebates on a current year tax levy with any reasonable assurance to taxpayers that is was done accurately and fairly?” he writes.

** For homeowners to receive a rebate in the second year, the county must develop and submit plans to the state by June 2015 concerning consolidation and shared services. The county cannot use in its plan any consolidations or shared services it has already completed. He estimates Oswego County would have to come up with about $7.2 million in savings through its consolidation/shared services plan if all tax jurisdictions in the county participated.

** In order for a municipality to participate in the tax freeze rebate program, it cannot adopt a precautionary waiver of the state’s 2 percent tax cap. Oswego County adopts the waiver each year due to the ongoing tax status negotiations with Entergy for the FitzPatrick nuclear plant in Scriba.

Without the waiver, taxpayers could be left having to come up with millions of dollars in penalties if a tax settlement for Entergy greatly changed previous years county tax levies.

So participating in the tax rebate program would pose a large risk for Oswego County, Church said.

Legislature Minority Leader Michael Kunzwiler, D-Oswego, said he believes  Cuomo’s idea to push for more shared services and consolidation is good, especially as it get more people talking about the issue.

“If this stirs things up, that’s good,” he said.

He disagreed with Church’s emphasis on state mandate relief, stating Church for too long has been singing this same song.

“Phil has to stop pointing the finger and srart looking in the mirror,” Kunzwiler said. “Phil’s top worry is about what the state is doing — instead we should start cleaning up our own house.”

Fulton GOP endorses Katco for Congress

At the regularly scheduled monthly meeting Feb. 17, the City of Fulton Republican Committee unanimously voted to endorse Republican Congressional Candidate John Katco.

Katco is running for the 24th Congressional District seat currently held by Democrat Incumbent Daniel Maffei, D-Syracuse.

GOP Committee Chair Mark H. Aldasch Sr. said the Republicans have a great slate of candidates, but the committee felt that the best candidate by far was Katco.

“I am pleased with the committees choice,” Aldasch Sr. said. “I believe John Katco is the best and strongest choice for the city of Fulton, the county of Oswego and the entire 24th District.”

Fulton Common Council OKs study of War Memorial gym floor

By Ashley M. Casey

At its Feb. 18 meeting, the Fulton Common Council approved a bid from engineering firm Barton & Loguidice to make a $4,500 study of the gymnasium floor in the War Memorial.

Parks and Recreation Superintendent Barry Ostrander told The Valley News the gym floor is experiencing similar issues as the Lanigan Elementary School gym floor.

The floor is delaminating — its components are separating and causing the floor to bubble and blister.

“It’s almost (in) an identical fashion, but we need to make a determination whether it’s a moisture problem or the way the subflooring is propped,” Ostrander said.

Unlike Lanigan’s floor, the War Memorial gym floor has not tested positive for mercury. The engineering study involves cutting away portions of the floor and drilling core samples to determine the cause of the delamination.

Ostrander said the War Memorial floor was installed in September 1996. Such floors have a useful life of 15 years, with a recommended resurfacing at 10 years.

“Usually, at that point in time (15 years), they’re looking to replace it, but we’ve exceeded that. We’ve never even had it resurfaced because we take exceptional care of the floor,” he said.

“It becomes an issue when you have basketball, whether it is trying to control a basketball for a dribble or someone rolls an ankle,” Ostrander added. “It becomes a safety concern.”

In a letter to the city, Barton & Loguidice said this testing would take place “away from the normal playing surfaces … to minimize disruption of the playing surface of the floor and the ongoing activities at the facility.”

Ostrander said he does not know how long the engineering study will take, or what the replacement floor will cost. He said the city will look for a flooring company that can install a similar floor, as “We’ve gotten a good life out of the existing floor.”

The Common Council also:

** Agreed to issue a $120,000 bond to buy a garbage packer truck. “It’s not going to affect the general budget,” said Second Ward Council Dan Knopp. “It comes out of the garbage budget.”

** Increased rental rates for Parks and Recreation programs and facilities at the War Memorial, Bullhead Point Pavilion, community Room, indoor tennis and North Bay Campgrounds, effective March 1.

The city will honor contracts made before March 1, 2014, until their expiration dates.

The new rates can be found on the city’s website at

** Set a public hearing for a proposed residential zone change. The city block surrounded by South Third, Rochester, Buffalo and South Fourth streets includes Holy Trinity Church, three single-family residences and one two-family residence.

A zone change has been requested to change the area from R-2, Residential, to R-1A, Residential.

The public hearing will be held at 7 p.m. March 4 in the Common Council Chambers of the Municipal Building, 141 S. First St.

Greene’s Ale House wins wing contest fundraiser for CAC

Hundreds of community members filled the Lake Ontario Event and Conference Center to enjoy some hot wings and cold brews at the Child Advocacy Center of Oswego County’s 3rd Annual Chicken Wing & Micro-Brew Fest.

The event raised more than $15,000 to help support the agency’s efforts to combat and prevent child abuse in Oswego County.

“Our 3rd Annual Chicken Wing & Micro-Fest was a tremendous success!,” said Executive Director Karrie Damm.

“Thanks to our many supporters and the nearly 700 community members who attended the event, we raised some much needed funds that will allow us to continue to provide services free of charge to victims of child abuse in Oswego County,” Damm said.

Contestants in this year’s competition included: Greene’s Ale House; Canale’s Restaurant; The Press Box; Jimmie James BBQ; Oswego Ancient Order of Hibernians; Kristen’s Kitchen at Battle Island; Steamer’s; Lighthouse Lanes; Garafolo’s Importing; The Red Sun Fire Roasting Co.; and the Office Tavern.

The winners included:

Greene’s Ale House: Judges Choice – Best Garlic Wings

Steamer’s: Judges Choice – Best BBQ Wings

Kristen’s Kitchen at Battle Island:  Judges Choice – Best Signature Wing

Popular Vote Winner, Best Tasting Wings: Greene’s Ale House (second year in a row)

“I extend a sincere thank you to all of our chicken wing contestants, as well as Eagle Beverage for providing the micro-brews. They are all winners for supporting the Child Advocacy Center and making our 3rd Annual Wing and Micro-Brew Fest a success,” said Damm.

The Child Advocacy Center is a nonprofit that works hand-in-hand with local law enforcement, prosecution, child protective services, medical providers, therapy providers and victim advocacy professionals in Oswego County to protect and serve children who are victims of sexual and physical abuse.

In 2013, the CAC served 475 children and families in Oswego County.

For more information on the Child Advocacy Center of Oswego County you may contact them at 592-4453.

Some Valley News odds and ends

Well, come March 9, I will have been the managing editor of The Valley News for six months.

Boy, time flies.

I thought, to mark this occasion, I would discuss a few odds and ends that have come across my desk in the last few weeks.

1) People have been doing a great job with photographs after the column I write a while back that I like to call Photography 101. Photos being sent here are of good quality and most everyone is remembering to send along names of the people in the photos.

I still have received a couple of photos taken with cell phones that could not be used. Please remember to take photos for the newspaper with an actual digital camera and email them to as a jpeg attachment. I’ve been trying hard to get photos in the newspaper in a timely fashion.

2) Here are a couple of things everyone should remember when sending in letters to the editor — sign your letter and include your phone number.

I have one sitting on my desk right now with no phone number, which means it will not run until I can hunt down a number and call them.  If I can’t find a number to call the writers, the letter won’t run.

3) The schedule for cover photos for the Wednesday Valley News newspapers is just about full. As of Wednesday, Feb. 19, the only dates still open this year are July 2, Aug. 13, Oct. 15, Dec. 10, Dec. 17, Dec. 24 and Dec. 31. And those last two December dates are iffy depending on whether the paper publishes on those holidays.

I am always here to answer questions about anything in the paper or take information about possible stories. Just call 598-6397, ext. 31 or email


Debbie  Groom

Managing editor

Fulton native makes magic for the silver screen

By Ashley M. Casey

As a child growing up in Fulton, Marcus Taormina often borrowed his parents’ video camera to make live-action horror films and stop-motion movies.

But he never imagined he’d make a career out of it someday.

Taormina now lives in Los Angeles, Calif., and is a freelance visual effects and digital media supervisor for the film industry.

He has worked on “The Amazing Spider-Man,” “Fast and Furious 6” and the reality TV show “America’s Next Top Model.” Currently, he is working on “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” which is slated for a May 2, 2014, release.

Although he works 12 hours a day — sometimes more — he says he “couldn’t be happier.”

Taormina originally majored in computer science, but “it just didn’t feel right to me,” he said. After a couple of semesters, he decided to switch gears to the University of Buffalo’s film production program.

“As soon as I took my first class, I knew that’s where I wanted to be,” he said.

Throughout college, Taormina took several small film jobs to familiarize himself with all aspects of production.

“One of the biggest things in the industry is making sure you understand your job and other jobs,” he said.

After graduating in 2007, Taormina moved to California to look for a job. Unfortunately, his move coincided with the Writers Guild of America strike, so it was hard to find work. Taormina worked in reality television, but his real dream was film.

“Film had more impact on people,” he said.

Taormina acts as a liaison for the director, camera crew and visual effects companies that are contracted to create computer-generated (CG) images, fix problems with props, and remove wires and other equipment that shouldn’t end up in the final shot. There are eight companies in the United States and Canada working on “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.”

“It’s basically a big puzzle piece,” Taormina said. “I’m guessing information we will need in case a shot is envisioned later on that was not before … to create a fully CG environment.”

Many characters are fully CG, so Taormina’s job is to provide photo references and map the photos onto a three-dimensional scan of the actor.

“The actors see what’s become of them and how their characters look in CG, and they can’t believe it,” Taormina said. “That’s how you know you’ve done your job.”

Thanks to his industry connections, Taormina has kept a steady stream of freelance visual effects work going. He has worked in New York City and Baton Rouge, La., in addition to Los Angeles.

“It’s a very weird working environment at times,” he said. “Once I’m done with (“The Amazing Spider-Man 2”), which is in about a month, I can find another job right off the bat, or I can take a little time off. That’s my vacation.”

The camaraderie on set makes Taormina’s sometimes grueling job more fun.

“This is the second ‘Amazing Spider-Man’ I’ve worked on. It’s a lot of the same team,” he said. “It’s the team bonding that you do. You’re all working an incredible amount of time. Long hours.”

But the movie magic is what Taormina finds most rewarding.

“It makes you feel like a kid and giddy when Special Effects comes in and they blow things up. It reminds you why you’re doing this,” he said. For the film he worked on in Baton Rouge, “There was an alien spacecraft (attacking) and we blew up a gas station. We closed an entire part of town. You could feel the heat from the explosion.”

Taormina has come a long way since setting up his G.I. Joes for stop-motion movies as a child.

“It was so magical to see what I could do by just pushing a button … and then bring the product upstairs and put it in the VCR. It got my mind thinking about what I could do creatively,” he said. “Not in a million years did I ever think I’d be working on a huge production like ‘Spider-Man.’”

Taormina’s advice for young Fultonians is to “always pursue your dreams.” He added, “(Even) if you think it’s silly, you never know what could happen.”

Phoenix family loses house, dog in fire

By Ashley M. Casey

A fire in the village of Phoenix on the evening of Feb. 17 left a family of five unharmed, but without their home and their dog.

Several local fire companies helped put out the blaze at 33 Elm St., which was reported at 5:30 p.m.

The family escaped with their cat and dog, but the dog ran back into the burning house and firefighters were unable to revive it.

Firefighters were met with some difficulty when the fire hydrant in Johnson’s front yard was frozen. They used a fire hydrant two blocks away.

“We were able to knock down the fire pretty quick,” Phoenix Fire Chief John McDonald said. He estimated it took about 45 minutes to extinguish the fire.

Firefighters from Baldwinsville, Caughdenoy, Cody, Liverpool, Mexico, Moyers Corners and Volney assisted the Phoenix Enterprise Fire Company No. 1.

Homeowner Mark Johnson shares the residence with his fiancée, another adult relative and two children. The American Red Cross is helping Johnson and his family, who are staying with relatives.

McDonald said the home is no longer livable due to damage mostly on the first floor.

“(There’s) pretty extensive damage from the smoke, heat and water damage,” McDonald said. “Fire damage was minimal.”

McDonald said the investigation into the cause of the fire is ongoing, but the dryer is suspected. The fire began in the laundry room.

Fulton Home Show returns April 12

More than 40 booths and exhibits from building suppliers, home repair specialists, and financial institutions will fill the Fulton War Memorial for the eighth consecutive year when the Fulton Area Home Show returns on Saturday, April 12.

A true sign of spring, the free home show is an opportunity for local homeowners and potential homebuyers to get a glimpse of the many services available for buying, selling, renovating, and sprucing up a home.

The show runs from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. and features a variety of different vendors from financial institutions offering help on mortgages to contractor’s offering ideas on improvements.

The event is sponsored by Burkes Home Center and is presented by the City of Fulton and the Fulton Community Development Agency.

In addition to the more than 40 exhibits, the home show will again emphasize “curb appeal” this year, said Joe Fiumara, executive director of the Fulton Community Development Agency.

“This year’s show will feature more vendors from the landscaping and exterior trades as we did last year,” Fiumara said.

“We know from experience that what gives everyone the nice inviting sense from a perspective buyer to a neighbor visiting is ‘curb appeal,’” he said. “So we anticipate our vendors to be offering tips and efficient ideas to achieve this.”

Fiumara said the home show came about in response to many comments from the community that homeowners didn’t know where to go for certain information, were not aware of certain services in the community, or were looking for a place where they could ask questions without being under any obligation to buy or sign up for something.

“Regardless of income, people are looking for certain things and were not sure where to get them,” he said. “The Home Show will be an ideal place for people looking to buy a home, as well as people who own a home and are looking to make some improvements.”

The show also will feature ongoing demonstrations by local contractors, building supply companies, and landscapers.

Exhibitor spaces for the home show are sold out, but organizers are compiling a waiting list for next year, Fiumara said.

“We have been pleased with the response by the business community so far,” he said. “This is such a good opportunity for our community to see what’s available to them and to look forward to the spring and summer home improvement and landscaping months.”

More information on the show, including exhibitor information, is available at the Fulton Community Development Agency, 125 W. Broadway, Fulton. Call 593-7166 or email to learn more.