Friday, May 3, 2013


With all the furor over "three men in a room" in Albany deciding things for all residents of the state, I can't believe the people are sitting for this case of seven board members deciding the future of two school districts without taking it to the residents' vote.

The scene is the Stockbridge Valley and Madison Central School districts in Central New York, where a three member advisory committee of former superintendents from across the state plus a few dozen local residents recently spent countless hours and who knows how many state-funded dollars devising a plan for a theoretical merged district combining academic offerings and student and faculty populations of both. 

I had the pleasure of covering the first of two information sessions, as the advisors released their projections to the public at the Madison school ( see for the full story) and was impressed by the work that went into the research. The three advisors stressed repeatedly that they were neutral on whether or not the merger was beneficial to the districts, telling the residents it should be up to them to decide that.

It was announced the next step would be a vote by the respective boards of education whether they wanted to take the prospect to the voters in each district, and I was even more impressed when MCS board of education member William Langbein stood before the audience to then and there reveal his intention to send the decision to the residents, as he felt it was not a decision their board should make for them.

The MCS board of education agreed unanimously 6-0 with him at their vote.

That same input was not welcomed from residents of the SVCS district, however, as their board voted 4-3 at their April 30 meeting to kill the prospect before it went further. You can read editor Carolyn Godfrey's story on that decision here:

So, thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours of work just went down the drain. I'm not saying the merger was a good or bad idea, but at the very least that should have been brought to the tax payers for their say, yes or no. It's their district too, and the merger feasibility study wouldn't have been done if there weren't financial concerns that needed to be addressed.

I applaud the Madison Central School's board of education for their intentions to take it to their folks, though. That's the way things should be done ... they are representatives of the residents of the district, and should take into consideration the will of those residents by hearing their concerns through a vote. SVCS residents, unfortunately will never have that voice, and now neither will the MCS families, because four persons destroyed what took so many hours to create. 

Saturday, March 2, 2013


It was inevitable as death and taxes, and this year figuring my income taxes nearly meant the death of me.

OK, maybe that's a little too extreme, but it was pretty tense there for a bit as the accounting software initially rejected my daughter as a dependent. That meant not only losing her deduction but also the college credit I was expecting -- bumping me up to owe $2,000 more than I thought I would. Ouch! It's been nearly 20 years of constant outpouring of cash, even more so now that she's in college. She's definitely a dependent, Mr.

Luckily, whatever I did wrong was soon changed -- although the tax forms still say she was convicted of felony drug possession but I think that is an easy fix (unless she really was convicted of felony drug possession ... darn college kids!). I figured how much I will owe come April so I can plan on having the funds available. I'm not dumb enough to send it in now, though. Let 'em wait.

Yeah, I said "owe." I'm watching all the people around me getting their refunds like it is a big windfall, and I can't help but wonder what they think that refund is benefiting them. Isn't that your own money the government has had for months while you could have been earning interest? Aren't you actually losing money by getting a refund?

I opt for paying a little at the end of the year. Unfortunately, New York State felt my "little" was excessive and fined my $29 for owing too much, but still that's a small price to pay for having access to my own cash.

Anybody else have a fun, or not so fun, income tax story to tell?