School budgets OK'd


Misha T. Kwasniewski/staff photographer
(ABOVE)McGraw School District Board of Education Clerk Donna Fox counts the votes recorded on the back of the voting machine for Tuesday's school board election and budget vote. Budgets passed in nine area school districts, while incumbents were voted out in Groton and McGraw.
(BELOW)McGraw School District Board Clerk Donna Fox, starts counting write-in votes recorded on approximately 40 feet of paper inside the voting machine.


From staff reports
Voters approved nine area school budgets Tuesday and elected a slates of new and incumbent school board members. It was the second straight year without a budget defeat.
The only upsets came in two school board races in Groton and McGraw.
Here are the vote tallies in area school districts:
The $10.4 million Cincinnatus school budget passed 197-74.
The second proposition, to purchase four new 65-passenger school buses and trade in four old buses at a cost of $289,00, also passed by a vote of 173-72.
The two Board of Education incumbents were voted back into their seats, both running unopposed. William Gallerani received 210 votes and Peter Bush got 187.
The district’s $36.1 million budget passed 498-179. A bus proposition with an estimated cost of $309,000 to purchase two 65-passenger buses, one 21-passenger bus with two wheelchair stations and lift and one vehicle with a capacity of five to seven passengers passed by a vote of 494-174.
Three school board members were elected. Lisa Hoeschele, the third-highest vote-getter with 419 votes, will fill a current vacancy on the board that lasts one year. Bonni Hodges, with 523 votes, and Paul Marshall, with 440 votes, will fill three-year terms. Loretta Card received 396 votes.
A $7.8 million budget and four propositions were passed by DeRuyter residents.
The budget was approved, 225-81. Board of Education member Delbert Newton, who ran unopposed, garnered 246 votes. There were no write-in votes.
The first proposition passed 218-93. It will provide $35,000 for summer school classes for students in kindergarten through third grade. The second proposition will allow the district to purchase two new school buses at a cost of $155,000. It was approved 213-89.
A third proposition, which passed 233-78, will provide $12,000 to DeRuyter’s summer swim and baseball programs.
The DeRuyter Free Library also received a boost by a 233-78 vote. The library’s annual appropriation from taxpayers will now go from $10,000 to $21,300 per year.
The $28.7 million budget passed by 32 votes, 708-676. A bus proposition also passed, with 783 voters approving spending up to $275,701 for buses and other vehicles for transportation.
Voters also approved spending up to $30,000 from the capital reserve account to renovate two rooms for science labs at the high school. The vote for the capital expenditure was 863-445.
Three candidates ran for three seats on the board. The vote was: Brian June, 1,054 votes; Jeff Bradley, 1,014; and Brad Rauch, 988.
Newcomer Michael Lockwood defeated Groton Board of Education President Nancy Thane by six votes Tuesday night.
Lockwood, 26, gathered 230 votes, coming in second to board member Miriam Zubal, with 339 votes. Zubal has served on the board for three years.
Thane, who has served on the board for 12 years, received 224 votes. Thane served two years as vice president and four as president.
The district’s $14.6 million school budget passed 290-140.
A second $190,371 proposition to purchase two school buses and a van also passed, 293-127.
The $33.3 million budget for the Homer Central School District was approved by voters Tuesday by a 776-459 tally.
Voters also approved three other propositions. The first will allow the district to buy five school buses and one passenger van costing $503,000, paid over five years. This was approved 802-406.
The second proposal would set up a capital reserve fund of $1 million for future capital projects in the district. The length of the fund would be 15 years. Voters approved this 743-453.
The final proposition, approved 781-417, asked voters to increase funding to the Phillips Free Library from $25,000 to $50,000, paid in equal installments over a nine-year period.
Three new Board of Education members will join the ranks. Dave Quinlan garnered 567 votes. He will be joined by write-in candidates Scott Ochs, with 375 votes, and Kim Sharpe, with 362. A third write-in candidate, Mary Beth Mathey, brought in 326 votes. Homer residents also wrote in 49 other candidates on the ballot, each receiving fewer than five votes.
The $13.8 million budget passed, 203-87. A proposition for the purchase of five, 66-passenger buses at $391,025 also passed, 215-76. All of the money spent on the buses will be paid back through state aid.
James Dann and Terry Atwood ran unopposed for two seats on the board. Dann received 239 votes, Atwood 238.
Write-in candidate Ginny Mott upset longtime board member Colin Cummins for a seat on the Board of Education Tuesday.
Mott, who placed fourth with 244 votes, will take the vacant seat left by Garth VanGundel, who becomes the district’s superintendent of buildings and grounds May 30. He resigned in April from the board. Mott will serve for a one-year term.
Mott said she had a lot of community support for her candidacy. “A lot of people made phone calls,” she said. Barb Closson, a parent in the district and supporter, said they also taught people how to write in a name on the ballot.
Also winning seats on the board were: incumbent Tony Opera, 394 votes; incumbent Michelle Stauber, 371; and Lois Horner, 334. All of these seats are for three years.
James Buckley received 138 votes, Cummins received 114 votes and Melissa Ponticello received 77 votes.
The $8.9 million budget passed 284-113.
All of the propositions also passed. The purchase of a van or suburban type school bus not to exceed $35,000 was approved 279-114. The second proposition to purchase an emergency school vehicle and spend up to $76,708 was also approved, 250-136. Voters approved replacing a sanitary sewer pipe at a cost not to exceed $99,900 by a vote of 297-91. Finally, the Lamont Memorial Library will receive $20,000 in taxes levied with the school tax. The amount was increased by $5,000 this year, and voters approved this proposition with a vote of 254-137.
The $16,910,934 budget was approved, 407-185. A proposition to raise $15,000 for the Powers Library passed, 370-200, while a proposition to purchase five buses and trade in four buses, for a total cost of $400,000 passed, 402-184.
In the election to fill two seats on the Board of Education, newcomer Laura Wells received 463 votes and incumbent Terry Lamphier received 429.


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Council moving to collect back taxes

Staff Reporter

Two long discussed measures moved closer to becoming reality Tuesday night as the Common Council received an update on a new law that would allow the city to foreclose on tax-delinquent properties, and voted to approve a city tree ordinance.
The city has identified more than 100 properties with back taxes totaling around $1 million, according to Andy Damiano, city director of administration and finance.
“Some go back many years, some are more recent,” Damiano said of the taxes owed.
City Attorney Larry Knickerbocker is drafting a law that would streamline the process of foreclosing on those properties, allowing the city to auction them off.
Cortland chose not to opt in to a 1994 state law that enabled municipalities to take legal action against a property rather than the violator, Knickerbocker said.
The law allowed a quicker and more efficient foreclosure on delinquent properties, Knickerbocker said.
The administration at that time was likely concerned about taking properties from homeowners, he said, and declined to adopt the law.
Since then, however, delinquent properties have placed a strain on the city’s finances, he said.
“This crimps the city’s operating budget every year, when you don’t know how much you’re going to receive,” Knickerbocker said.



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Homer townhouse project opposed

Staff Reporter

HOMER — Neighbors spoke out against a proposed housing development on Creal Road Tuesday night at the Town Hall. The village board of trustees now has 45 days to make a decision on the project.
The applicant, Elaine Olson, plans to build a 24-unit townhouse development in 12 buildings on 9 acres on the south side of Creal Road, just west of Bedford Street.
To do so, the village would have to approve Olson’s preliminary design plan and a zoning amendment that would rezone the property from R-1 residential to a planned development district-residential.
Residents on Creal and Bedford roads are not thrilled about the project. About 25 people who live in the area attended the meeting.
Stephen Lewis of Creal Road feels the proposal is not in line with current housing.
“All the properties around this have their own yards,” Lewis said. “I see a diversion from the continuity of the area.”
Lewis also questioned the stormwater runoff plan.
Bill Yacavone of Bedford Street presented petitions that had been circulated throughout the area. One petition was against a thoroughfare through Bedford Street, now a cul-de-sac, the other against the zone change to a PDDR.



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Police - Fire Log

Police find missing Cortlandville boy
A 12-year-old boy was missing for nearly four hours Tuesday night after he wandered away from his Route 215 residence in Cortlandville, according to the Cortland County Sheriff’s Department.
Brandon Woodrome was found around 8:10 p.m. coming out of a field in the area behind the Plaza Theatre in Cortlandville, police said. The Cortland County dispatch received a 911 call from Woodrome’s family around 4:20 p.m.
Police said Woodrome wandered into the woods near his house shortly after coming home from school. Police were unsure why Woodrome wandered away. About 25 firefighters joined the police search for the child, and State Police sent out a helicopter.



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Cortland mother pleads not guilty to abuse charges

Staff Reporter

A Cortland mother accused of assaulting and endangering her 5-year-old son pleaded not guilty Tuesday in Cortland County Court to six felony and misdemeanor charges filed in a grand jury indictment.
Judy Gratton, 48, was arrested March 21 by city police at her 6 Union St. residence following a drug raid. During the search, police found Gratton’s malnourished 5-year-old child in the house, weighing only 15 pounds.
The grand jury indictment was handed up May 5 in County Court. It charges Gratton with first-degree assault and first-degree reckless endangerment, felonies, three counts of misdemeanor endangering the welfare of a child and misdemeanor fourth-degree criminal possession of marijuana.
Gratton is being held in Tioga County Jail on $2,500 cash bail or $5,000 bond.
County Court Judge William Ames denied a request by Gratton’s lawyer, Ira Pesserilo, to have her bail lowered or to release her on her own recognizance.
“I think bail is very, very reasonable under these circumstances and I’m going to continue that,” Ames said.
Ames gave Pesserilo and Cortland County District Attorney David Hartnett until July 7 to file legal motions in the case.


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