TH board opposes tax break for Ginsberg’s project

CRARYVILLE–The Taconic Hills Board of Education discussed last week whether to reimburse students for college-level courses they take during their time at Taconic Hills. The board also weighed in against an agreement that would reduce taxes for the planned expansion of the Ginsberg’s food service company.

Board President Kevin Maisenbacher and board member Robert Piper staunchly opposed reimbursements for college-level courses for which students did not also receive high school credit. They both made it clear that they support reimbursing students who also receive credit for the courses at Taconic Hills.

Mr. Maisenbacher said at the October 16 board meeting that allowing students to be reimbursed for any college level course was “opening up a can of worms.” He worried that taxpayers would be paying for students’ “freshman year.”

Other members of the board supported the reimbursements. “There are worse ways for taxpayer dollars to be spent,” said board member Donald McComb.

Describing the need for college-level courses, one board member said, “By the time some students get to their senior year, there’s not much we can offer them…. Most of our students have to do remedial work at top colleges—even the top 10%.”

The issue doesn’t have immediate consequences because the board determined that no students are using the reimbursements for college classes that don’t also count for high school credit. But board member Clifford Campbell, who supports reimbursements, suggested that students should have to get classes approved by the school beforehand if plan to ask for reimbursement.

The discussion about reimbursements led to questions about online college-level courses—specifically those offered by Marist College—for which students can receive credit at Taconic Hills. Mr. Piper worried that students might pay to have others take online courses for them.

“They’re always going to find ways for people to cheat the system,” said Superintendent Neil L. Howard, Jr.

Other board members and members of the audience expressed concerns that the ease of Internet access and other factors might lead students to believe that they are better prepared in a subject area than they actually are. At Taconic Hills, said one board member, “They’re big fish in a small pond.”

Also at the meeting Director of Pupil Personnel Jack Costello said that Taconic Hills received 27 new special needs students in August. He discussed making sure that other districts are following the same standards for classifying students as special needs, and making sure that “we have the right costs—that we’re getting reimbursed from other districts and from the state.”

“I think the state should be helping out,” said board member Anna Skoda.

“We are starting to bill back other districts,” said Dr. Howard.

On another matters, the board unanimously opposed a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) agreement under consideration by the county Industrial Development Agency for Ginsberg Institutional Foods. The PILOT would reduce the taxes the company would pay for its proposed new facility on state Route 66 in Claverack and Ghent.

Contacted later by phone, Dr. Howard said, “This is largely a symbolic vote. What I’m going to do is send copies of the resolution to pertinent individuals to make sure that they know that the Board of Education is not in favor.”

Asked what impact of the agreement would have on the district, Dr. Howard said, “We really don’t

know…. Our job is to be watchdogs for the taxpayers.”

Addressing a different tax matter district Business Manager Cybil Howard told the board last week that “people who are Star eligible on their primary residence can get [the] rebate” associated with the New York State Property Tax Freeze credit.

“Where does that money come from?” asked Board Member Robert Piper.

“That’s the surplus,” said Mrs. Howard.

“After they hoarded [the money] for 10 years…” said Mr. Piper.

“It’s an election year,” said Mrs. Howard.

Mrs. Howard also told the board about the necessity for making sure that employees are properly covered under the Affordable Care Act. “All employers have to go through a period of payroll testing over the course of the next year to determine the extent to which their employees have access to affordable healthcare,” said Mrs. Howard.

She also suggested that the board use the general fund to help support to the Cafeteria Fund. “We certainly can’t charge six, seven, eight dollars—what it would actually cost,” said Mrs. Howard.

In other business:

  • New School Resource Deputy Ian Boehme, a seven-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Office, described the functions he serves at the school as: school safety, “whether that be a person or a natural disaster”; educator—he cooked zucchini bread with a special education class; and “an advocate for the students”
  • Mr. Maisenbacher addressed administrators about summer credit recovery classes, asking, “A kid could, in theory, do absolutely nothing through three quarters and still get a 50?”

“It’s to give them a mathematical chance,” said Dr. Howard before asking High School Principal James Buhrmaster how many students actually got 50s after doing nothing. “Too many,” said Mr. Buhrmaster

  • Bradley Boyles has received a statewide award for “Outstanding New Business Educator of 2014”
  • The board received plants in flowerpots that had been rendered by a 3D printer in honor of School Board Recognition Week
  • Supervisor of Transportation Richard Viebrock reported that there has been a lot of “absenteeism” among bus drivers. “It’s all legitimate,” he said. “There are many days when everybody in my office including myself is driving. We’ve had full moons—I don’t know what’s happening”
  • Athletics Director Angela Webster said that Taconic Hills is “going to have to start looking at” scaling back certain sports teams. Several J.V. teams have already been eliminated due to low participation levels
  • Student Lauren Lawson made a plea to the board to reinstate a moment of silence on September 11, which the school did not do this year.

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