Cheers and jeers

CHEERS – To empowering young girls. Nearly 200 girls from local schools participated in the Tech Savvy Summit for girls earlier this week. The youths in grades six through eight attended technology and science workshops at Fulton-Montgomery Community College. The workshops served as a way to encourage the girls to consider careers in those fields. We’re sure the event, organized by the Amsterdam-Gloversville-Johnstown branch of the American Association of University Women, opened the eyes of at least some of the girls. Men outnumber women in most science, technology, engineering and math careers. Events like these promote the need for more women to pursue STEM.

JEERS – To double dipping. According to the Empire Center for Public Policy, more than 500 people have sought and received permission to collect public pensions while being paid by state or local governments since 2015. That means taxpayers pay their salary and pension at the same time. “Taxpayers are ultimately responsible for backing public-pension benefits and paying public-worker salaries. They have a good reason to question why they’re paying someone twice,” said Tim Hoefer, executive director of the Empire Center, an Albany-based think tank. Hoefer says the state Legislature should consider putting new public employees in a defined-contribution retirement plan, which would be less expensive. Considering the high cost of state workers’ salaries, benefits and pensions, lawmakers need to look at measures to get the system under control.

CHEERS – To booting the tampon tax. New York’s Legislature has given its final approval to exempt tampons and other feminine hygiene products from state sales taxes. The measure is expected to take effect in the subsequent sales-tax quarter. It exempts tampons, sanitary napkins and panty liners from the 4 percent state sales tax and local taxes. Other medical necessities such as bandages, medicine and condoms already are exempt. Some consider the tampon tax sexist. We welcome its long-overdue demise.

Cheers and jeers

CHEERS – To the New York state tax cap. Several years ago, the state started requiring schools to limit how much they can increase the tax levy each year. The levy is the amount of money raised through property taxes. As a result of the tax cap – which is about 2 percent but varies among districts under a state formula – schools have increased taxes by only small amounts each year. Some districts have even been forced to hold taxes steady. Without the tax cap, some schools no doubt would be trying to increase taxes to unbelievable levels. Even with the cap, local school taxpayers are burdened by high taxes. We hope the tax cap is here to stay for many years to come, and we’d oppose any changes to the formula that would give schools more room to increase taxes.

JEERS – According to a survey in Chief Executive magazine, New York CEOs ranked New York state the second worst in which to do business. In responding to the survey, the CEOs looked at taxes, regulations, the quality of the work force and the quality of the living environment. “New York, and in particular New York City, needs to be more supportive of businesses, or all the jobs will leave with the businesses,” one CEO said in the survey, according to the magazine. “New York’s locale is ideal for companies across all industries,” Marshall Cooper, CEO of Chief Executive magazine and, said in a news release. “But their tax burden and oppressive cost of living are going to continue to be problematic for the state if they don’t make some aggressive changes.” The survey may not be particularly scientific, but our state legislators should take notice. The state’s burden of taxes and regulation are a concern business owners often express.

CHEERS – To a young speller. Miles Compani of Broadalbin heads to Washington, D.C., this weekend to compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee. The Broadalbin-Perth Middle Schooler earned the honor by winning the Fulton County Spelling Bee. The Leader-Herald, which sponsors the county bee, is sending Miles to Washington and sponsoring him at the national bee. Regardless of how far Miles gets at the national bee, he’s making our area proud by representing us on a national level. Good luck, Miles.

Cheers and jeers

CHEERS – To good Samaritans. Misty Nellis and Diana Deloria didn’t have to help, but they did because they care. The two were riding in their car Wednesday afternoon when they noticed smoke coming from a property on Third Street in Gloversville. They followed the smoke and realized a house was on fire. They quickly alerted the occupants and called 911. If not for their actions and that of a neighbor, who banged on the door, the fire could have led to a terrible tragedy. The fire displaced eight people living in the home, but thankfully, no one was hurt.

JEERS – To out-of-control spending. School districts in New York plan to spend 2.8 percent more per student in 2016-17 than they did in the current school year, and per-pupil tax levies will increase by an average of 1.3 percent, according to the Empire Center for Public Policy, an Albany-based group. The increase brings the average per-pupil spending for the districts to $24,103, the group says. The 2.8 percent increase in spending is more than twice the 1.3 percent inflation rate. Where does the money come from? Your pockets. State income taxpayers and property taxpayers pay the bill, via increases in state aid and property taxes. You may want to keep this in mind when reviewing the proposed school budgets up for public vote next week.

CHEERS – To attracting voters. Getting people to turn out for school board elections and budget votes isn’t easy. Unless school board seats are highly contested or school taxes are going up dramatically, the voter turnout generally is low. Some schools, however, are coming up with creative ways to increase participation and make the experience less intimidating. For example, the Fonda-Fultonville Central School District is organizing a variety of activities at the school Tuesday to correspond with the voting, which is from noon to 9 p.m. Electronics recycling, a concert featuring the high school chorus and wind ensemble, an Ag Olympics, a clothing giveaway, a book fair and an art show are among the day’s activities at the school. More school districts should take this approach and make voting day a bigger, friendlier event.

Cheers and jeers

CHEERS – To Sawyer Fredericks. It’s been a year since he won NBC’s “The Voice,” but the 17-year-old singer-songwriter from Glen is still making our area proud. Earlier this week, Fredericks made a guest appearance on “The Voice,” performing one of the songs on his new album. He’s also embarking on a tour in the western United States. Through all of his adventures and newfound fame, Fredericks and his family continue to live on their farm in Glen. We wish the young performer success in his endeavors, and hope he always has a special place in his heart for his hometown.

JEERS – To another unfunded mandate. The New York State Office of Indigent Legal Services has come up with new criteria and procedures for determining assigned-counsel eligibility for defendants. The new procedures go into effect Oct. 3, says Fulton County Public Defender Gerard McAuliffe. The result will be a bigger caseload for local public defender offices. As often is the case, the state will provide no money to pay for the work created by the new measures. Local property taxpayers can add this to the list of unfunded state mandates. Proposals in the state Legislature call for the state to fund indigent criminal defense services. We urge their approval.

CHEERS – To international student enrollment. Fulton-Montgomery Community College has the highest enrollment of international students among community colleges in New York’s university system. We weren’t surprised when we heard that. The college has had a longtime reputation for being a good college for international students, and the word has been spreading abroad for years. The strong international enrollment is good for the college – which benefits from the tuition – and other FMCC students, who benefit from seeing a mix of cultures on campus.

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