2016 In Review: In April, School Board OK’s Budget, New Tax Deal Struck With FitzPatrick

OSWEGO, NY – Here’s a glimpse of the some of the news from the past 12 months.

United Way Recognizes Volunteers and Leadership Givers
United Way of Greater Oswego County shined the spotlight on its many volunteers at its 2016 Salute to Volunteers and Leadership Giving Reception at the American Foundry in Oswego.

Executive Director Patrick Dewine along with the United Way staff and members of the Campaign Cabinet extended a special recognition to Entergy James A. FitzPatrick NPP with the United Way Spirit of the Community award.

The award is presented to an organization or individual that demonstrates unwavering commitment to improving the quality of life in Oswego County.

“This year’s recipient was a clear choice,” said Dewine. “With $325,000 a year in charitable contributions to community events and non-profits, Entergy made an immediate and meaningful impact when it entered our community. Contributing to more than 60 community initiatives throughout Oswego County, Entergy cannot be mentioned without the word commitment. Their involvement and support to the United Way of Greater Oswego County alone is overwhelming.”

Resource development director Ali McGrath added, “Since the beginning Entergy and its employees were a major sponsor of our annual golf tournament, a large donor to our yearly campaign, a strong collaborator for community impact, a leader and supporter of new projects for the United Way; but most importantly this organization and the United Way became partners.”

In addition to saluting its volunteers, Dewine and the United Way board of directors recognized its Leadership Givers, those that pledge $500 or more annually.

“These exceptional businesses and individuals demonstrate remarkable dedication to United Way,” said Dewine. “Their care and concern for our community is inspirational.”

Phone issue affecting 911 service in Oswego County
The Oswego County E-911 Communications Center reported that some land line telephones in Oswego County are having difficulty reaching 911.

These lines were in the Fulton area. 911 officials worked with the local telephone company to resolve the problem.

People who couldn’t reach 911 using a land line had to use a cellular phone or go to their local fire, police, or emergency medical services agency for assistance.

The Fulton, Granby, Cody, Volney, and Palermo fire departments were staffing their stations to assist people until the situation was resolved.

County, Scriba and Mexico School District Move Closer to Tax Agreement for FitzPatrick
The Oswego County Legislature voted April 5 to hold public hearings April 14 on a tax agreement that would end years of litigation over assessment of the James A. FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant in Scriba.

The County Legislature scheduled a public hearing for April 14 at 7 p.m. on a local law that allows the county to enter into a proposed five-year tax agreement with Entergy for the FitzPatrick plant.

The proposed agreement settles a tax certiorari lawsuit which Entergy brought against the town of Scriba in 2011. The lawsuit challenged the tax assessment of the FitzPatrick plant for the years 2010 through 2015.

The proposed agreement prevents another challenge to the current assessment.

“By entering into this agreement with Entergy, the town of Scriba, Oswego County and Mexico Central School District avoid tax refunds for the years at issue in the tax certiorari proceedings in which the company alleged it was over-assessed,” said Oswego County Legislature Chairman Kevin Gardner, District 13, New Haven.

The Mexico Board of Education and the Scriba Town Board will also vote on resolutions authorizing the proposed agreement.

Under the proposed agreement,

–  The town of Scriba, Oswego County, and Mexico School District will NOT have to pay any refunds to Entergy for the years the company claimed they were over-assessed.

–  If FitzPatrick closes and begins decommissioning on schedule in 2017, the tax jurisdictions will be paid $27.5 million in declining tax payments by the company over five years.

–  If the FitzPatrick plant continues to operate and generate electricity, the tax jurisdictions will be paid $12 million per year for five years.  This is $2.8 million per year more than the 10-year tax agreement that expired in 2010. As an inducement to remain open, this payment is less than what Entergy would pay if the plant remained on the tax roll as an operating plant.

–  If the FitzPatrick plant is sold to another generator, the tax agreement is voided.

–  The tax jurisdictions would share in the payments as follows:  Mexico Central School District, 65.5 percent; Town of Scriba, 4 percent; and Oswego County, 30.5 percent.

Hundreds Take The Plunge For Special Olympics
A couple hundred people took the plunge Saturday afternoon in Lake Ontario.
They were freezing for a reason — Oswego’s fourth Polar Plunge for Special Olympics.

The event was held at Wright’s Landing at 1 p.m. In roughly three minutes, the plungers had made their in and out of the freezing water.

Members of the Coast Guard and Oswego Fire and Police departments were on hand to ensure safety.

“It was cold, very cold!” exclaimed Jacquline Bond, a member of the Penske Penguins team, as she dried off and warmed up. “It’s for a good cause, so it was worth it. We are glad to help.”

Jen Niebling, a member of the Delta Phi Epsilon team, said they have raised about $1,300 – “and counting.”

“We did this not to just raise some money but also to hep raise awareness of Special Olympics and the great things they do. The whole sorority promoted doing (the plunge) and encouraged it,” she said.

Both the Penske Penguins and Delta Phi Epsilon were among the top 7 teams raising funds this year.

Proposed School Budget Contains Large Reductions
The tentative 2016-17 budget for the Oswego City School District has cut the fat – and then some.

“Nobody likes reductions … I hate these reductions,” Dr. Dean Goewey, superintendent, said after unveiling his updated budget plan. The $79,510,611 budget proposal is less than the current budget and less than the 2014-15 budget.

However, the cuts were severe. Many positions were targeted for reduction at all levels within the district.

Because the state aid came in less then anticipated, the spending plan contains a 2.5% levy increase. For a $100,000 home that translates into an additional $52.98. That would generate $140,000 for the district, the superintendent explained.

Reductions “were very necessary,” he said, adding that you can’t close a $5.6 million gap without impacting students.

They were “very, very difficult reductions,” Dr. Goewey said.

Oswego St. Baldrick’s Fights Childhood Cancer
When does a couple hundred equal several thousands? When you’re talking about the people who volunteered to have their heads shaved in support of childhood cancer research.

Inside the Lake Ontario Event and Conference Center in Oswego in early April, nearly 200 people were loosing their hair as the St. Baldrick’s Foundation was gaining support.

The 10th annual St. Baldrick’s fundraiser was held at the conference center for the fourth year. Previously, it had been held in the food court of SUNY Oswego’s Campus Center.

The St. Baldrick’s Foundation is a volunteer-driven charity committed to funding the most promising research to find cures for childhood cancers and give survivors long and healthy lives, according to volunteer event organizer Dan Witmer.

Shortly before 2 p.m., less than an hour into the fundraiser, it was announced that $49,000 had already been raised. More funds were coming in all afternoon from shavees, an auction, chances on a lottery board and more. The goal was $65,000.

Mayor Billy Barlow delivers 100 Day Address/2016 State of the City
Oswego Mayor Billy Barlow delivered the 2016 State of the City in April, combining the speech with his official 100 Day Address.

“As we mark our first 100 days together in office, we can all look back and be extremely proud of what we have already accomplished,” Mayor Barlow told the packed Council Chambers. “For the first time in a long time, our residents are excited about our community. They are encouraged by their local government.”

The official 100-day mark for the new administration was on Saturday, but the mayor addressed the Common Council and public Monday during the Common Council meeting highlighting several accomplishments within the first 100 days and emphasizing the amount of momentum and energy city government currently has.

“When I decided to run for mayor, I ran because I felt the city needed a drastic change. We needed a jolt of energy and we needed a “Can-Do” attitude. And when I won the election, I vowed to myself and to the residents of this city that I would use the same amount of energy and passion it took to win an election to represent and move our city forward, because the leadership in City Hall was stagnant and absent for far too long and it showed,” the mayor said.“It is also precisely the reason why we entered the New Year with incredible momentum and with the help of the Common Council we have carried that momentum through the first 100 days and have made considerable progress in several different areas.”

He thanked the council members who “took office in trying times” and have worked together to settle into office and passionately serve their constituents.

Because of the momentum they have generated, he said he believes the state of the city “is strong, energetic and active.”

County Legislature OKs Tax Pact  Tax For FitzPatrick
The Oswego County Legislature voted April 14 to approve a tax agreement, ending several years of litigation over assessment of the James A. FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant in Scriba.

There were two public hearing on the local law and ensuing tax deal. However, no one spoke at either.

The local law allows the county to enter into a proposed five-year tax agreement with Entergy for the FitzPatrick plant. It takes effect Jan. 1, 2017 and expires at 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 31, 2021.

“Under this agreement, of the funds available, the county will receive 30.5%, the town of Scriba 4% and the Mexico school district will receive 65.5%,” Legislator Jack Proud said.

The proposed agreement prevents another challenge to the current assessment, Kevin Gardner, chair of the legislature, said.

Under the agreement, the town will receive $1,100,000. The county’s share will be $8,387,500. And over the life of the deal, the school district will get $18,012,500.

Hundreds Help Raise Funds, Awareness Of Autism
The 10th annual “Walk for Autism” drew a big crowd to Leighton Elementary School and the nearby Wilber Field in mid-April.

Dozens of walkers took part in the annual fun walk to benefit the Oswego County Autism Task Force.
“The number (of walkers) seems down from past years. I thought with the great weather, the track would be packed,” OCATF member Theresa Familo said shortly after the event started.

A little while after noon, the number of participants increased significantly.

Besides acting as a fundraiser, the event, sponsored by the task force, also focused attention on the plight of people diagnosed with autism in Oswego County.

“We raised $3,100. The top winning team was Fredrick Leighton Elementary,”  Tammy Thompson, the director of programs for children with special needs for Oswego County (and president of the task force). said. “Top youth fundraiser was Justin Blake and second was Hannah Petrie!”

Board Approves Budget, Speakers Oppose Sports Cuts
The Oswego School Board approved the $79,510,611 budget proposal for the 2016-17 school year.

It contains a 2.5% levy increase. For a $100,000 home that translates into an additional $52.98, or $4.42 a month, according to Superintendent Dr. Dean Goewey.

The budget also contains many reductions; several support staff and teaching positions are on the block as well as a big chunk of the district’s athletic programs.

Prior to the board’s action, more than a baker’s dozen of speakers pleaded with the board to not cut the sports.

Oswego Eyes ‘Pawn Brokers’ Law
At April’s Planning and Development Committee meeting, Kevin Caraccioli, city attorney, requested a discussion regarding proposed Local Law #3 of 2016 regarding Chapter 176, Pawn Brokers.

“This is a law we’ve all considered at one time or another, at least the councilors who here before. It’s something the county has thought about taxing, but hasn’t,” Mayor Billy Barlow said.

Thieves break into vehicles, steal electronics and other things and then try to sell them, he pointed out.

“What this does is give the police department a tool. They can go down to the local pawn shops and try to track down the stolen items. It requires a store to hold an item for a certain period of time. It requires the store to document the item that they have,” the mayor said.

He added that it is probably easier for thieves to come to Oswego (from communities that already have this type of law) and sell things.

“So we want to prevent that,” he said. “We’re asking our store owners to be a little more responsible and care about what items are passing through their hands. And to give city police the opportunity to recover stolen items and return them back to their owners.”

Port City Launches New Website
Mayor Billy Barlow announced April 29 that the new city of Oswego website went live and is up and running.

The website focuses on providing a more business friendly destination, promoting Oswego’s natural resources and highlighting Oswego’s history in a friendly and easy to navigate page layout.

Also included is an interactive business listing and easy city services listing.

“The new city website certainly does not disappoint and establishes a web presence all city residents can be proud of,” the mayor said. “We finally are using current technology through the internet to promote all of the fine qualities our community has to offer and we also are capitalizing the opportunity to highlight our major employers, small businesses, tourist attractions and other entities that are helping create the momentum in reviving our community.”

To visit the new site, go to www.oswegony.org

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