Letters: Town budget, FEMA and education

PETER BOODY FILE PHOTO | Town Board members, Town Clerk Dorothy Ogar and Town Hall staffer Kathy Sullivan (right) at a recent budget review session.

Money matters

To the Editor:

I would like to thank the Town Board and the supervisor for all the hard work in putting the budget together. The town appears currently to be in good financial condition, including having healthy reserve balances. The tax rate arrived at with this budget is not unreasonable since the voters overwhelmingly approved a LOSAP program for the ambulance personnel and this and other ambulance costs became a budget addition. The tax rate, because of a prior carry forward credit, also appears to be within the 2-percent tax cap increase mandated by the state.

Having said that, the 3.9 percent tax rate was achieved by transferring approximately $800,000 from our reserves, and as was just mentioned, the 2 percent tax cap increase was achieved because of a prior year’s credit.

I believe the town is at a fork in the road. The town cannot continually transfer money from the reserves without jeopardizing money that will be needed for infrastructure and emergencies. The choice is either a cut in town services, employees and their benefits or future higher tax increases. My recommendation is that the Town Board begin the discussion on cuts of services, salary increases and employee benefits versus tax increases now and not wait until next year’s budget process. Neither alternative will be popular.

Some additional points and questions:

1. Additional information throughout the year (quarterly for example) on the town’s financial position would be appreciated. Does the town have the financial tools to assess budget versus actual expenses throughout the year?

2. Is it time for an appointed town administrator or is this an unnecessary expense? Should there be a Town Finance Committee?

3. Where are we going with employee salaries and their health and pension benefits?

4. Are there other sources of revenue that we have not pursued?

With the lack of future funding from the county, state and federal governments, we surely are headed for higher taxes. The alternative is to cut services, employees, salary increases and benefits. This is a discussion we should be having throughout the year and not just at budget time.

Thank you again for all your hard work on the budget.

TIM HOGUE

President, Shelter Island Association

Shelter Island

The final budget adopted by the Town Board on Tuesday raises the property tax rate by 3.0 percent and allocates $496,700 from reserves. See story page 6. — Ed.

The extra mile

To the Editor:

Our heartfelt thanks to Dana Hallman and Henrietta Roberts, who man the Shelter Island Office of Senior Services, for their hospitality and care to all of our neighbors, young and old, who took advantage of their services during the power outage after the storm. The services they provide to our community are invaluable. They called seniors and made personal visits when necessary to check on them. They worked 24/7 for several days, always a smile and never a complaint. Not only during this emergency but also on a daily basis, they’re serving our senior community. If you call the office after hours with an emergency, you can call Henrietta at home. How generous is that? We are blessed to have people like Henrietta and Dana serving our senior community.

KEN AND JEANNE WOODS

Shelter Island

FEMA fuming

To the Editor:

I was appalled when I was informed by a town employee at the Recycling Center that the “free” disposal of storm damage debris was being funded by FEMA. For a wealthy town such as Shelter Island with minimal damage, compared to other New York localities, such funding would be a gross misappropriation of limited public emergency resources.

Reading the complete and comprehensive coverage of the storm in our fine newspaper I found no mention of such FEMA funding so I can only hope and assume that the employee who told me about it was misinformed. I think you should put one of your reporters on the case to determine the facts and properly inform the public about this possible misuse of public funds.

That’s one man’s opinion.

DAVID OLSEN

Shelter Island

A notice was in the November 1, 2012 issue of the Reporter on the Recycling Center waiving fees for storm-related debris. A story appeared on the Reporter’s website, sireporter.com, on Thursday, November 8 on the town’s FEMA projections, and is in this issue on page 12. 

Port in the storm

To the Editor:

It has been two weeks after much of Long Island was hit by Hurricane Sandy and the subsequent nor’easter. Fortunately, most Shelter Islanders have regained power and have returned to their normal daily routines. At the library, we are particularly proud to have served an important role for our neighbors during the most difficult days following the storms. I want to thank the library’s staff and volunteers for the extra efforts made to make our patrons comfortable and more at ease during this difficult time.

The library was fortunate enough to have sustained minimal damage to its building and property. On Wednesday, October 31, when most of the Island was without power, heat, phones, running water and Internet, we discovered early, at 8 a.m., that all utilities were working, so we immediately opened our doors. As word spread that we were all powered-up, Islanders poured in to use our telephones, access Wi-Fi (from inside and outside the building), to log on to Internet stations and to plug cell phones and laptops into the many charging stations we set up, not to mention to check out books and to simply connect face-to-face with others for comfort and reassurance.

In addition to making and receiving cell phone calls and texts, many people hunkered down to access the Internet for the latest news from weather reports, to view Facebook pictures posted from friends and family, to get the latest news from online news reports and to watch streaming video of news conferences held by the governor, the mayor of New York City, FEMA representatives and other disaster assistance personnel.

During days when school was closed, our children’s librarian, Jennifer Blume, held impromptu movie screenings and continued weekly programs, while the rest of the staff made sure everyone was comfortable and that those in need of charging stations had access to outlets on the main level and lower level (even plugging in surge strips to maximize power accessibility). Our staff set up work stations in our new community room and gave on-demand instruction for downloading e-books and navigating the Internet. Every seat in the building was taken.

According to our assistant library director, Laura Dickerson, WiFi usage, Internet access, circulation of downloadable e-books and overall traffic during this time had been the highest ever.

I am humbled and proud to say the library played such a vital role in the Island’s recovery and realize we could not have done it without the hard work and dedication from our fantastic staff and volunteers.

DENISE DiPAOLO

Director, Shelter Island Public Library

Rome is burning

To the Editor:

I was watching the documentary “What Sank the Titanic” Sunday night on the Military Channel. It is somewhat similar to the 1958 classic “A Night To Remember.” Now that the election is over, I needed an escape from the cable news roller coaster of media events, the latest being the Petraeus love affair.

While watching the documentary, it dawned on me that another story is being left behind about the causes of the Titanic’s sinking, and that we are missing the real point or points or subliminally unconscious message … or maybe not. Maybe it’s just me. But then again, what is it that constantly draws us into the sinking/disaster of this great ship? Arrogance that it cannot sink? (Like our nation cannot sink?) Denial only to be faced with the reality that you and the ship are going down? The class and caste system of that time that seems to be gone today? The brave citizen heroes that went down on that ship?

These are but a few of the questions/perspectives of that time looking from the inside out. But why has it become timeless? And so many films done on this man-made disaster? When compared to today, we are not the same people as at the time of the Titanic.

The documentary demonstrates the contrasts and differences of who we are now and who they were then. Today, we are a divided, selfish people, a completely segmented herd. Example: Alabama, Virginia and Florida electrical workers being sent away, who volunteered to help bring power back after Hurricane Sandy, only to be called “scabs” by the LIPA and New Jersey electrical workers. In the words of Lincoln, “A house divided cannot stand,” and ours is crumbling and sinking like the Titanic. It isn’t just Nero fiddling on his fiddle, it’s half our nation that is fiddling while Rome burns, dooming future generations. (Remember many fiddled on the Titanic.)

The legacy and fortune that the “The Greatest Generation” has left to us is being squandered as the debt pours into our nation like the water that poured into the Titanic and sunk the unsinkable in two hours and forty minutes. “The Greatest Generation” rose to the occasion, first by being catapulted from the Great Depression into a two-front war in both the Atlantic and Pacific, called WW II. Truly a Titanic struggle. Their Titanic made it and went on to prosper.

The question is what will happen to the Titanic of this generation?

RICHARD KELLY 

Shelter Island

Still suffering

To the Editor:

With Long Island communities still in dire need after Hurricane Sandy, we must do everything we can to continue to help them. Cleaning up after the devastation is essential, with people trying to restore their homes so they can move back in and start to rebuild.

We’re asking that Shelter Islanders please donate brooms, dust pans, garbage bags, gloves, masks, cleaning agents, tarps, storage bins, towels, paper towels, paper plates, cups, utensils, water, dry goods and vacuums.

Please drop off any items to Sue Cronin at 5 Willow Pond Road (across from O’s gas station).

For further information, please call 749-5026.

SUE CRONIN

Shelter Island

Getting it right?

To the Editor:

The October 25 issue of the Reporter included an article headlined “Federal standards replace state curriculum,” by Julie Lane. In the third paragraph, the reader is informed that the town’s school district “has already purchased new math textbooks and is investigating a new reading series, according to Academic Administrator Jennifer Rylott.”

The story then continues with a description of the new literacy program being considered. Superintendent Hynes is quoted as saying “What our students need is both reading and writing.” Well, yes.

The new approach to math is to teach addition and subtraction so that, by third grade, students “can build on that … with multiplication and division.” But the superintendent says “I’m not saying skill and drill.”

This is all in response to “national common core standards for education.” Dr. Hynes wants “to proceed at a slow, steady pace to ensure the district is doing things correctly, rather than rushing the process.”

After 150 years or so, one expects the school to already be doing things correctly. Overhauling basic stuff like math, reading and writing looks like a signal that things haven’t been going very well over a somewhat extended period of time.

DAVID L. DRAPER

Shelter Island

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