School tax credit bill would further weaken public education

Sunday, January 19, 2014
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School tax credit bill would further weaken public education

As a recent graduate of Stillwater schools, I have felt the repercussions of education budget cuts.

When I heard from a former teacher about the education tax credit bill that is being introduced in the Legislature, I became concerned.

The tax credit bill would allow you to reduce your tax bill by donating money to a religious or private school. In return you would receive a 100 percent tax credit on the amount donated.

In the past, similar bills have come to surface. This time, they disguised the bill by saying it’s an educational scholarship. It would really take $250 million away from student programs.

Several friends who are college graduates with degrees in teaching are still suffering the consequences of the recession. They still haven’t found a job, and that isn’t acceptable. Those who have found teaching jobs [had to move to] other states.

The tax credit bill threatens to rob us of funds that are needed to provide our public schools with educators and programs that students need to be successful. Students suffer when programs such as athletics, the arts and language are cut, and class sizes grow, because so many teachers have been laid off.

As a past, present and future New Yorker, I want to keep our teachers here and give students the education they deserve. To keep them, we need to spread the message that the tax credit bill will only hurt our public schools.

Johnalyn Scarati

Mechanicville

Land trust donors do good, and do well

Your Jan. 9 editorial on land preservation was very informative. Both the general public and many landowners are not familiar with conservation easements.

A conservation easement becomes part of the property’s deed. It protects a property from future development in perpetuity. The landowner is an active participant in spelling out the details of the easement. He can continue to use the property as it is currently being or even recently has been used. For example, he can have it logged, he can cut firewood, he can farm it (raise crops and animals).

Any existing structure, such as a barn, house or garage, can be excluded from the easement, as can additional areas for future building purposes. The landowner can prohibit certain operations, such as commercial oil or gas drilling, commercial windmills or solar collectors, and of course the property can be sold.

A conservation easement may provide a reduction in assessment, depending on the regional assessment policy. Whether or not this occurs, the reduction in value determined by a private assessor can be taken as a charitable contribution on the landowner’s [income] taxes. Every year the landowner can apply for a 25 percent property and school tax reimbursement from New York State on the land included in the easement.

Over the last 23 years, the Schoharie Land Trust has protected 17 properties totaling 2,700 acres from future development.

Schoharie is not a wealthy area, and our operation relies heavily on donations. The natural disasters of the past few years have adversely affected our fund drives. The money collected pays for filing and legal fees involved in current and future land acquisitions.

Contact us for further information or visit our website www.schoharielandtrust.org.

Charles Rielly

Altamont

The writer it a member of the Schoharie Land Trust board.

Writer’s knock on kettle ‘beggars’ way off base

Re the Jan. 14 letter by Edmond Day, on true acts of giving becoming rare: While I agree it is heartwarming to encounter someone spending their own time sharing Christmas music in a Publix supermarket, I take offense to his saying all we get are “beggars” at kettles with a hand out.

This Christmas season I encountered one of these said “beggars” outside an upscale store on one of the most frigid and windy shopping days. I inquired as to why he could not sit just inside the door in the space before the store’s entrance, and he replied that the store did not allow it. This man was smiling and cheerful and calling out “Merry Christmas” and “God bless you,” whether you put something in the kettle or not. It is irrelevant whether he was a paid worker or a volunteer, his spirit was a gift.

Many of these “beggars” endure less-than-ideal locations, and sing and call out encouragement. Are they not feeding the soul and trying to help those in need also? Most people who give pocket change are not looking for a tax write-off. They are people in need, just like those the kettle people are trying to help.

True acts of giving come in many forms.

Cindy Scheuer

Knox

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