If country went over fiscal cliff, it wouldn’t be such a disaster
As a fellow firmly ensconced in the 99 percent, I am prepared to face the consequences of the fiscal cliff and am not unhappy that [House Speaker] John Boehner rejected Obama’s latest offer.
Obama, whose leadership I support enthusiastically, has a troubling tendency to cooperate with people who won’t cooperate but just want more, more, more.
I’m no expert on national defense, but we do spend more on it than the next 11 countries combined. I am confident the Pentagon can find ways to provide for our defense while enduring a healthy cut in the defense budget under sequestration.
[Sen.] John McCain, who has never met a weapons program he didn’t love, will not be happy, but I have never been impressed with his judgment anyway. Maybe the cut will temper presidents’ enthusiasm for foreign adventurism (Iraq).
The middle-class tax cuts will be restored without much delay simply because political pressure on the GOP will be intense. President Obama needs to stiffen his backbone and play hard ball with these people. It’s the only game they understand.
Article on charities’ fund raising was misleading
I fear that The Daily Gazette Dec. 22 article [“Charities get less than half of cash given”], with regard to the state attorney general’s Charity Bureau report, may leave an impression that is both inaccurate and unfortunate. The article indicated that “Professional fundraisers kept more than half of the money raised in New York for charities in 2011.”
This is clearly inaccurate. Most of the money raised in New York for charities is, in fact, not raised by professional fund-raising companies, but by the organizations themselves. Charities have significantly lower costs associated with raising contributions than do professional telemarketers. While there is a range of acceptable cost associated with raising funds, depending on the type of charity and its need for funds, most charities are well within reason and overseen and regulated by members of the community who serve on the board of directors.
For example, the organization I represent, The Schenectady Foundation, has fund-raising and marketing costs less than 3 percent of its total expenses and puts nearly 90 percent of its budget into community programs and services.
Unfortunately, some organizations continue to utilize professional telemarketers, to the detriment of the broader charitable sector. This can only be addressed by the discretion and good judgment of donors.
One thing the public can do to change this is to refrain from giving money to campaigns run by telemarketing companies. Just say no! Instead, give directly to the charities of your choice — organizations whose work you know is sound, effective and efficient.
Donors can check on the performance of charities through a number of websites that publish their tax filings — or go directly to the charity and request that information. Charities are obligated to provide their tax filing upon request.
An important aspect of fundraising is not addressed in the attorney general’s report — that is, what is accomplished with the funds that are raised. Granted, the cost of raising funds is an important indicator of effectiveness, but what is achieved can be priceless to the donor and to the people in the community who are ultimately the beneficiaries of the donation.
The attorney general’s report is an appropriate warning to be careful as to how and where to donate. But we must not paint charities with a broad stroke, as many critical community services are available only because of charitable donations. If we exercise good judgment in giving, we will ultimately eliminate unethical fundraising, to the benefit of our communities.
Robert A. Carreau
The writer is executive director of The Schenectady Foundation.
State-aid formula hurts smaller, rural districts
In early December, Gov. Cuomo announced that the new state budget would include a 4 percent increase in education funding. This may sound great on the surface, but the truth is many districts will see no increase in aid at all. Even worse, they could receive less aid.
The governor failed to explain what this year’s 4 percent increase means in terms of the state’s Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) law. This legislation, first introduced in 2010-11, divides state funding shortfalls among all school districts in the state and is reflected as a reduction in the school district state aid.
Last year, thanks to the GEA, instead of receiving an increase in aid, Mayfield, the district where I live, lost more than $1.6 million in state funding. Should the GEA continue next year, Mayfield will lose another $1.65 million. As you can see, there will be no 4 percent increase for Mayfield if the GEA continues.
I would like to point out that the GEA formula does not distribute the reductions equitably, and often small, rural districts receive disproportionately higher cuts. Under the current formula, two different schools with exactly the same number of students could have vastly different GEA calculations. Wealthier districts with larger budgets often experience less funding cuts under the GEA than the smaller, rural districts.
Despite pleas for help, lawmakers have done nothing to rectify this inequitable system. We’ve relied on eleventh-hour solutions, such as bullet grants, to get us through. These efforts, while appreciated, do nothing to solve the real problem.
What is the real problem? State leaders are not prioritizing educational funding and not fulfilling their responsibility to uphold the state constitution. which requires all children be provided with an appropriate and quality education. In addition, the GEA needs to be changed.
Let’s stop this back-door, smoke-and-mirrors approach to funding educational programs, and make change now that will promise comprehensive educational opportunities for all children in this state.
The writer is a local school eacher and also chairs the Mayfield Advocacy Committee, a grass-roots organization seeking a more equitable distribution of state aid.
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