Niskayuna golden, but only for some
Philosophical differences? All right, then. $139,000 plus benefits to keep quiet and send a Ph.D. on her way home (oops, she has no Ph.D.). This handsome payment, in addition to her originally extravagant salary, will ensure a fine pension for our outgoing superintendent. I guess Niskayuna is the place to come when seeking to pad your pension before retirement. Are you serious?
As a taxpayer here in “Golden Niskayuna,” I am requesting that those who decided on this payoff please resign your position effective immediately and write a check in the amount of $139,000 to the taxpayers, and please share all the details with anyone.
Sending the superintendent off with $139,000 is offensive to a community that has been trying to make due with less. We have laid off some fine teachers, cut programs for our children, and shortchanged our bus drivers and janitors. This year money was spent to hire experts to do studies on how best to use our facilities.
After asking some 40 people to sit on a committee to work so hard for months to come up with a plan to best utilize our facilities, the board took no action, as if their time meant nothing.
I am starting to believe that the secret meeting “oversight” was illegal. This payout wasn’t budgeted and not discussed in a publicized meeting. You took $139,000 away from our kids. [Niskayuna Superintendent] Susan Salvaggio is gone.
Maybe we should try for a clean slate moving forward and get new members on the school board. We have to send a very strong message that if you want to run for a board position, make sure you are interested in the well being of our kids.
I am willing to accept an offer for a payoff to keep quiet for $138.888.88, and I’ll save you the extra added benefits and leave the area. Ready, here is the account: #%^%*(@#.
Start over with new Nisky school board
There have been at least four letters in recent months indicating moderate to severe dissatisfaction with the Niskayuna Board of Education, and I believe from conversations with my neighbors that these letters are just the tip of the iceberg.
Overt dissatisfaction began last year when the school board, against the advice of school administrators, submitted a budget that foolishly overrode the tax cap by a small amount but garnered substantial aggravation and anger from the taxpaying voters.
Earlier this year, the board ignored the administration to save $440,000 annually with a school closure, and recently forced the resignation of a well-liked and respected school administrator in a secretive, bizarre and costly manner. Actually, there has been a disaffection for at least a decade with the school boards’ manner of indiscretion in budgets and expenditures, which now add up to a very contentious and problematic situation. Now the nature and depth of the problem, as well as the historic dysfunction of the school board, is clear and obvious to long-time residents who are used to more reasonable behavior.
The solution is not at all clear and easy, as the bad habits cannot be changed with one or even several election cycles. Someone has suggested a delay with regard to the hiring of a new superintendent. Good idea, but probably not feasible.
Let me present what I believe is a more targeted idea, but perhaps, unfortunately, equally unfeasible. It is as follows: a townwide referendum to dissolve the entire present school board and develop a way to set in motion, with outside assistance, a place to create an entirely new board. That board, hopefully, would have fresh ideas to establish a sensible and judicious system to ease the Niskayuna school system out its present chaos. Then, perhaps, future elections would be carried forward without the apathy that has contributed to its present dysfunction.
We cannot allow an excellent school system to become a victim of absurd politics and poor judgment.
Lyle W. Barlyn
Bring back school bus drivers in Nisky
In 2005 I moved to Niskayuna. Until last fall I was a district school bus driver. Through attrition, the district is counting on payroll savings by increasing workloads of remaining staff. Administrators seem confident that Niskayuna’s teachers can meet this demand.
Utilizing existing talent is admirable. Last summer the district replaced its skilled drivers by private contract — the sole bidder for transportation services. The staff already in place efficiently and effectively served our students. Dedicated and professional drivers got the job done, without overextending abilities or increasing numbers.
Alas, outsourcing proceeded when the board asserted an insufficient budget, despite the $375,000 Assemblyman Phil Steck and Sen. Hugh Farley forwarded the district.
Claims are that outsourcing saves $300,000. Can this be sustained with the resulting, and mounting, unemployment claims and legal fees? The resigned superintendent’s severance package plus replacement search costs further negate these savings. It stings to realize that I have paid for this, not only with my hard-earned tax dollars but also with my job.
The school board just reinstated all freshman sports. Passing a motion to reassign funds was easy. I urge the same consideration for bringing the driver’s work back home, especially now that Niskayuna admits to its millions in reserve.
School boards out of control
Well, another story of school boards acting with no regard for taxpayers.
The Niskayuna school official with the sports promotion job on the “side.” The payouts — now there and previously in Schenectady.
It’s not right. They should be ashamed, and we should be ashamed for letting it happen.
Apathy — they can count on it.
Investigate Niskayuna school board
The recent flood of public outcry in protest of the actions of the current Niskayuna School Board clearly conveys a widespread and growing lack of trust and credibility. The board’s demonstrated lack of competence and disregard for residents’ concerns over the last two years has reached a point where outside intervention is the only recourse.
The major examples include:
1) Failure to meet fiduciary responsibilities e.g. ever-growing levels of spending that far exceed revenues; depleting reserve to dangerous levels (2012-13); attempt to override the tax cap, (2013); providing an excessive severance package for resigning district superintendent (2014).
2) Lack of oversight resulting in the district overcharging the state for capital improvement funding (2013-14).
3) Failure to inform/involve the community on major issues, e.g. superintendent change (2014), subcontracting of bus drivers (2013).
4) Failure to comply with open meetings laws (2014).
4) Disregarding community inputs on facility consolidation study (2014).
5) Potential violation of Honest Services Law by permitting a high school principal to hold full-time outside job.
Each of you has espoused the rights of and support for residents and taxpayers and the necessity for accountability and transparency at all levels of government.
On behalf of the many frustrated and angry Niskayuna residents, I’m requesting Sen. Hugh Farley, Assemblyman Phil Steck Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to personally get involved and investigate this tragic and unacceptable situation.
Richard E. Baker
Trade political ads for real information
Joe Conason’s April 12 column decries the conservative members of the Supreme Court allowing big money to increase its impact on election campaigns. While he may have a valid point, I think the real issue in American politics — especially at the national level — is that the voters can apparently be bought by excessive advertising.
Do the American people vote based only on name recognition and negative ads, which constitute a ridiculously high percentage of political ads? Where is the real information about the policies that candidates are proposing. How do they plan to use their role in government to make the world better for all? That’s what our system is supposed to be about.
I’ve been proposing for decades a system where every registered voter receives a communication from each candidate (I used to say a paper mailing, but these days electronic means would have to be included), the length of which is appropriate to the scope of the office — perhaps two pages for local offices and 10 for national. If the candidate uses this communication to deride their opponent, that’s enough evidence that they don’t really have a platform of their own. Incumbents would hopefully use this forum to stand on their record, assuming they have a good one.
The communication would be available for later comparison with the candidate’s performance if they are elected. All advertising could then be eliminated. It would obviously take a lot of the entertainment out of politics, but wouldn’t it be a better system to elect the people we need?
Burnt by brush fee in Rotterdam
I left town on Feb. 22 and was back on April 3. On Feb. 28 the town mailed out a year waste collection service fee notice indicating that if I wish to continue with the yard waste collection service, simply forward payment of $50 in person or by May 30.
By completing a form, having it notarized and filing it with the town clerk’s office no later than April 1, I could decline this service.
I went to the clerk’s office on April 4 stating that I was out of town, as many senior residents are, and there was no way I was able to file the form in a timely manner. I spoke to two department employees and was told that I had a problem and the fee had to be paid or it would be added to my Jan. 1, 2015, property tax bill.
Now I am expecting our June water bill to triple. These are not taxes, just fees.
Remember our town leaders in November.