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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, July 23, 2009

For seniors
More time to pay, a taxing proposition

By Saranac Hale Spencer

VOORHEESVILLE — Small though it may be, offering elderly residents the ability to pay their school taxes incrementally over the course of the year could ease the burden on those who have a limited income, according to Thomas Mensching.

The Voorheesville retiree volunteered earlier this year in AARP’s tax aid program, which offers help to the elderly in filing their taxes.

“I was kind of shocked at how some seniors are having to get by on so little,” he said.  That’s what prompted him to ask the Voorheesville School Board to consider allowing those over 65 to pay their school taxes in several payments instead of one lump sum.

The school board could, by a two-thirds vote, pass a resolution that would let qualifying senior citizens pay their school taxes in three installments, according to the state’s Real Property Tax Law.  The first half of the total amount would be due at the same time as the regular tax collection, the second payment would be at least 50 percent of the remainder, and the final quarter of the total would be due by the expiration of the tax warrant, which is typically in November, said Geoff Gloak of the state’s Office of Real Property Services.

“It gives you two extra months to pay your taxes,” he concluded.

If the district asks the county to take on its tax collection, Gloak said, the installments could be extended over the course of the full fiscal year.  Opting to have the county act as the school-tax collection agency is allowed for in a different section of the same tax law, which extends the collection period to a year with the number of installments to be set for each district.

According to both sections of law, any increment scheduled to be paid past the ordinary due date is subject to interest.  In the case of the county acting as the collection agency, the interest accrued belongs to the county.

When asked if it might not be good to add to seniors’ tax bills with interest, Mensching said, “That would obviously be up to the senior.”  Offering a longer period over which they could pay might outweigh the small amount of interest incurred, he said, concluding, “Based upon what I saw when I did taxes, I’m sure there are some who are going to be in trouble.” 

Mensching also cited the halt to the STAR (School Tax Relief) rebate check this year and said, “Many of these seniors are going to get hammered this year.”

Sarita Winchell, the district’s assistant superintendent for business, could not be reached for comment, but spoke briefly on the issue at the July 13 school board meeting, indicating that the county would need to be involved.

“It would be a significant effort on the part of the county,” said John Lynch, director of the county’s Real Property Tax and Service Agency, in a recent phone interview.  If the county were to be involved, it would require several layers, including the office of finance, the county legislature, and the county executive’s office, he said.

“In these days of difficulty in funding government, I’m not so sure it would be met with open arms,” he said, adding later, “I don’t want to pour water on it.”

Other business

In other business at its July 13 meeting, the board:

— Voted unanimously to appoint board members to the following committees: Timothy Blow, Lisa Henkel, and Gary Hubert to the audit committee; David Gibson, Kevin Kroencke, and C. James Coffin to the planning and governance committee; Cheryl Dozier, Coffin, and Hubert to the facilities committee; Dozier, Henkel, and Kroencke to the curriculum committee; Kroencke, Dozier, and Henkel to the evaluation committee; Blow and Gibson to the Communication committee; and Coffin will be the board member to serve on the district’s safety committee;

—         Voted unanimously to make extracurricular and coaching appointments;

—         Voted unanimously to declare certain items as being surplus or obsolete;

—         Voted unanimously to approve the attendance of the board members and Superintendent Teresa Snyder for the New York State School Boards Association annual convention to be held at the Sheraton New York Hotel & Towers in New York City from Oct. 15 to Oct. 18 with a cost of $380 for registration for each person and $236 per night for lodging;

—         Voted unanimously to name Hubert as the voting delegate and Blow as the alternate for the annual NYSSBA business meeting on Oct. 17;

—         Voted unanimously to hire Rochelle Soloway and Associates for “literacy coaching consulting services” for the coming school year at a cost of $800 per day for 15 days.  Blow asked the board what exactly the district is getting from the contract and how the firm was selected — he termed the situation “very loosey goosey.”  Henkel defended the choice and said, “It’s not loosey goosey.”

—         Heard from the elementary school’s new principal, Thomas Reardon, who expressed excitement about his post, reported that he had met many of the school’s teachers and planned a meet-and-greet session, and said that he is expecting a vacancy for a teaching position;

—         Discussed the results of the Regents exams with high school Principal Mark Diefendorf and expressed overall satisfaction — that passage rate for the English, United States history, biology, and chemistry exams was 99 percent; the passage rate for global history, Spanish, French, and geometry was 100 percent; the passage rate for algebra was 97 percent; the passage rate for earth science was 91 percent; the passage rate for physics was 88 percent; and the passage rate for math B was 85 percent;

—         Heard from the district’s new superintendent, Teresa Snyder, that Voorheesville has received 11 applications so far for the middle school principal position.  She expects to have two candidates for the board to interview and hopes to have someone in place by the end of August.  The board had unanimously appointed Brian Bailey to the position at its June 22 meeting, but he declined the position due to the salary; and

—         Voted unanimously to approve the budget for the school lunch fund for the coming school year.

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