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Council of Albany Neighborhood Associations
Meeting Minutes for May 5, 1999

1. Introductions

2. Minutes: Correction to the April minutes: Sergeant Chambers is Outreach Coordinator and Asst. Chief Epting is Chief of Patrol Officers. Elfrieda Textores was in attendance at the April meeting. Maria Parisella moved to accept the corrected minutes. Emily Grisom seconded. Motion approved.

Those present took a moment of silence in memory of Dan Potter. Keith St. John suggested buying a City Tree to plant in front of the building in memory of Dan with an engraved stone plaque. Other ideas included an endowment with proceeds going to neighborhoods each year and a Dan Potter award to a landlord who makes an improvement in an Albany neighborhood. It was decided that a tree with plaque be purchased and a Dan Potter award will be instituted Marggie requested contributions for the tree and plaque be sent to NRC, 38 Catherine Street, Albany 12202.

3. Communications/Announcements
Schedule for the Neighborhoods USA Conference in Madison, WI was circulated. Elfrieda Textores is attending the conference.
A copy of the audit of the Mayor’s Commission on Charter Revision from Deputy Comptroller Walter Evans was circulated.
Mayor Jennings responded to CANA’s letter regarding the Charter thanking CANA for their interest but indicated that it is “premature to discuss amendments to the Charter at this time.”
John Frederick sent CANA a copy of his Letter to the Editor (Times Union 3/24/99) regarding the parking permit issue. The letter requested all those involved to come together to resolve this issue of change with a neutral dispute resolution mediator. The goal is to impart fresh thinking to the issue that would help generate a solution for all.
Quality of Life committee mailed a letter to the Mayor regarding CANA’s concerns. Marggie reported that she called in three trash calls to DGS. Two of the three were picked up right away.
Delaware Area Neighborhood Association will be holding a Y2K meeting on September 9th and invites other neighborhood associations to join them. Call Mary Connair at 463-7605
It was requested that Marggie ask the City to provide neighborhood associations with an updated City phone list.
Second Avenue Neighborhood Association has a web site.
BZA notices circulated.
Albany Public Library notices distributed
Capital District Transportation Committee: scheduled discussion sessions and invited neighborhood participation. Meetings were postponed. Marggie will contact interested parties when the new schedule is known: Area of concern is Central Avenue and State St. from downtown Albany to downtown Schenectady subdivided into 3 parts: Urban Core: Lark to Quail (D. VanHouten - West Hill); Urban Strip: Quail to Watervliet Ave. (C. Lindsay - Beverwyck) Suburban strip from Watervliet to Route 7 (C. Lindsay ). CDTA Phone number 458-2161.

4. Committee Reports
a. SUNY Community Relations
Next meeting will be on Wednesday, May 12 at 7 p.m. at the Albany Police Department’s Traffic Safety Building at 526 Central Avenue. The Committee has recently started dealing with organized bar crawls by students.
b. Community Police Council
The Mayor awarded the first Police Council Awards on May 12th to Civilian Pat Kelly and Sergeant Jay Chambers. Plaques were donated by the Police Department. Second Ave NA asked the Council to consider using the forms that are used in Schenectady to report information from NA to Police. Asst. Chief Epting will consult with the Schenectady Police and report back to the Council. When a beat cop is on vacation, another officer from the same zone cover the beat. Sandra Hallbreder, a neighborhood person, has been added to the Council. There is increased coordination between APD, DGS and AFD to issue Quality of Life tickets. It was suggested that Bill Bruce & Mike Whalen be at a future CANA meeting. National Night Out comes out of Lauren Signer’s office. Maria will check on the Night’s theme. Data: Chief Epting reported that from January thru April, the APD made 78 referrals to DGS, 24 referrals to the AFD for code violations, towed 19 abandoned vehicles and started issuing noise tickets.
d. Budget
Marggie attended a Common Council Finance Committee meeting about possible cash flow problems in the City before the end of the year and what will be done to alleviate/avoid them. City anticipates $900,000 from sale of School 10 and adjacent parking lots within the next few months. There is some relief thanks to higher tipping fees at the landfill.

5. Guest Speakers:     Superintendent Lonnie Palmer & Senator Neil Breslin
(The following information corresponds with a hand out on the school budget distributed to those in attendance.)
Performance: Test scores have been going up for the past three years - especially in elementary schools.
If students don’t pass, the only option is GED and there is talk about raising the expectations of GED to match Regents expectations. Second language and special ed. kids are impacted by this. Academic results improving but there is still a lot to be done.
Targeted spending: Aim money at specific problems.
Fund literacy improvement effort.
Add student testing program in 3,5,6,7 to diagnose student weaknesses.
Additional math and writing labs for Albany High School.
Expansion of alternative programs in middle and high schools.
Yellow buses for all eligible public and private K-6 students. Bus contract will generate 150 jobs locally.
Add special ed. services for most needy students
Maintain class size by funding 12 new teachers
Add student management system to track attendance and academic performance.
Link all schools through a computer network.
Budget Growth Areas
Debt service $2.7 M - should have been bonded previously. It had been rolling over - paying off previous debt.
Health insurance $2.2 M - trying to negotiate agreements to generate more savings. Study indicated that the District should get on one plan and have employees contribute to the insurance.
Negotiated/budgeted raises: $1.8 M
Increased enrollment: $600,000
Transportation: $550,000
All told, these factors account for $7.8 out of the $8.1 million increase in expenses.
Efficiency Efforts
Bonding of debt service generates state aid and increases investment income
District seeking to reduce health insurance costs in negotiations
Negotiate raises on par with other school districts
Demographic study helps predict student enrollment.
Increase in Title 1 shifting from local taxpayers to state and federal grants.
Rising transportation costs curtailed by 255,535
Administrative component of budget down to 9.6 percent of budget .. one of the area’s lowest.
$8.1 million increase in cost offset by increased property tax revenues resulting from reassessment.
More state aid funds due to improved planning and monitoring. $18-26M increase in state aid.
Increased grant writing efforts. Grants pay for “extras”: after school care and other opportunities.
Tax Rate
Tax increase held to 2.6%
Tax increase is among the lowest compared to all area school districts. Home assessed at $80,000 would pay an extra $40 in taxes. School taxes should decrease for those with STAR exemption.
Tax Rate with STAR
Home assessed at $80,000 would receive a $195.30 tax decrease with Basic STAR exemption.
The same home would receive a $976.50 tax decrease with Enhanced STAR exemption (seniors 65+)
Next year’s Basic STAR program will offer even greater reductions for homeowners.
Budget Failure: The Cap
Contingency budget capped by law at 120 percent of Consumer Price Index
Budget could grow by no more than 1.2 percent from last year.
This would mean $3.7 million in cuts to 1999-2000 budget proposal.
Cuts would mean major program reductions and layoffs.
The District is trying to put together an education consortium with other Capital District cities in an effort to get state aid benefits similar to the “Big 5”. They are working with the Regional Planning Commission to determine what a consortium can accomplish. They will go back next year to ask to be treated as a Big 5 and get the benefits.
Sen. Breslin: Philosophically, the Governor promised full day kindergarten, reduced class size, pre-k, bilingual education and has not included these programs in his budget. Statewide there is $15B in capital construction necessary. Assembly budget $4M more than Governor’s; Senate’s budget is $1.5M more. Governor could show more leadership then he has to date.
Q: What can people do?
A: 5 years ago the Gov. was criticized for late budgets and lost. This year, Sen. Breslin has received no mail or phone calls on the late budget. Late budgets waste millions. The budget process is leadership driven - 3 men with no accountability.
Q: Heard possibility of both houses passing a one line education bill and then passing it over the veto.
A: Possibility. Everyone’s going home on June 15th.
Q: How does salary structure compare to other districts
A: Albany highest in Capital District with a starting salary of $34,515.
Q: Build or buy garage for new busing company? Yellow Bus Co. at Lark & Spruce is a nuisance to neighborhood.
A: Looking for space.
Q: Facilities operational costs: utilities, building improvements. Have you looked at performance contracting for energy efficiency?
Both, realized savings and payback. 20 buildings, average age is 80 years. Long range plan addresses increased enrollment, accessibility issues.
Q: Could the facility study development plan be put in the APL branches.
A: Yes. Can try to do that.
Q: Experts say this is a wave of school age growth and it will subside. Foresight to work in future use of facilities that won’t be needed 15 years from now?
A: Demographic study will be updated more frequently.
Q. How can we make sure what we’re building will fit in with the community? PS 20 will be community center and possibly branch of the library. Trying to open buildings more for community use.
Q: Discuss school safety
There is a student health and safety committee studying all topics of youth risk behavior. We now use retired security officers, video cameras, and move troubled kids to a more personal environment. There is Intensive support for those who are headed for trouble. It is too late to stop someone if they bring a gun or a bomb to the school. We need to address the issue before that happens.
Q: How is transportation going to function for 4-6 year olds under proposal?
A: Buses become K-6 buses so kids who go to same schools will be on the same bus. Kids will walk to main pick up point. Some door-to-door pick ups. New transportation supervisor currently working on summer transportation. Will get bus route information out to parents earlier.
Q: Does the district use professional negotiator? When the employee pays a portion of benefits more efficient use of it.
A: Currently in fact finding stage. Settled every issue but salary and benefits. District requested fact finder and first meeting tomorrow. Decision by end of July.
Q: Increasing enrollment for period of time and then leveling off. Would vouchers be considered as a policy option if the leveling off were to happen instead of taking on building capital costs?
A: Current spaces don’t work. Need to renovate to accommodate basic needs of the students. Will happen over a period of time.
Comment: Hackett Middle School ball field is very poorly maintained. Superintendent will look into this.
Q: Senator mentioned that he hasn’t received any letters regarding the late budget. WAMC reported that they can’t get data on the dollar amounts lost. Perhaps the Superintendent and the Senator could come up with data and have a press conference to let people know what it’s costing them.
A: Just one part. Losing money in many areas. Contractors can’t plan or rely on the state. State Universities
Board passed revenue anticipation note giving school opportunity to borrow money because budget not passed. The interest will not be reimbursed.
Q: Didn’t the legislators say last year that they would discipline themselves by not getting paid until the budget passed?
A: Not all of the legislators responsible. It’s the Speaker, Sen. Majority Leader and the Governor in control. Items are kept in committee until the leader allows them out on the floor for vote.
Q: How can we help?
A: Write letters to the editor. Governor in other states saying how business friendly we are - write letters to other states.
Q: Two-thirds of last year’s revenue came from property tax not state aid. Why are we funding schools in this manner where it sets-up inequities in basic treatment of kids. Kids are kids are kids are kids.
A: Common issue across the country. Albany getting 22% when state average is 40%. Cities where large federal facilities get money from federal government to offset the inequality. Watervliet gets federal moneys for arsenal. The claim is that we get job benefits. Other areas get state offset aid. Beacon almost has same size of state aid and they get the state aid that we don’t.
Q: Is the Mayor lobbying for the schools
A: Teen centers in the schools and the City has been very helpful. Local legislators helping. Suburban areas recognizing their need to help the urban areas getting what they deserve.
Other Business:
Bar crawls .. potential of three within six weeks of each other. Legislation is pending in the Senate (for NYC) that would outlaw bar crawls. Henry Madej moved that CANA support state legislation that would prohibit bar crawls and restrict or prohibit bar promotions. Seconded by Chris Lindsay. 10 in favor, 4 opposed, 6 abstentions- no consensus.

Credit Union grand opening this month. 388 Clinton Avenue.

Minutes submitted by Sandra Thomas and Marggie Skinner

Attendance (5/5/99)

Marggie Skinner, Pine Hills NA
Christopher Lindsay, Beverwyck NA
Mimi Mounteer, Manning Blvd. NA
John Mounteer, Manning Blvd. NA
Marry Connair, Delaware Area NA
Richard Carroll, Delaware Area NA
Dominick Calsolaro, Second Ave. NA
Cynthia Galivan, Manning Blvd. NA
Maria Parisella, Mansion NA
Colin McKnight, Mansion NA
Emily L. Grisom, Sheridan Hollow NA
Gene Solan, Pine Hills NA
Suzanne Taiman, Washington Park NA
Donald Wardle, Center Square NA / United Tenants
David Miranda, Upper Washington Avenue NA
Craig R. Waltz, Helderberg NA
Aimee Allaud, Melrose NA
Andrew Harvey, Park South NA
Cathy Conway, APSTA
Phil Suniken, Albany High School/APSTA
Harold Greene, Albany Schools Retirees
Theresa Swidorski, President, Board of Education
George Bruso, Mansion NA
Robert McRae, CDARPO / Mansion NA
Elfrieda Textores, South End Concerned Citizens
Henry M. Madej, Pine Hills NA
Kathleen Kearney, Hudson/Park NA
Clare Yates, Center Square NA
Thomas Gebhardt, University at Albany
Marty Gawoski, West Hill NA
Frank Benoit, Upper Washington Avenue NA