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Spirit Week sets mood for CHS homecoming

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Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Students make their way to lunch during Decades Day Tuesday at Cortland Junior-Senior High School. From left, seniors, Tania Young, Beth Cutia and Kelly Griffin wear outfits from the ’60s. The day was part of the school’s Spirit Week, a tradition leading up to homecoming events today.

By SASHA AUSTRIE
Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — A Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, Superman and Minnie Mouse were just some of the characters who made an appearance during Cortland Junior-Senior High School’s Spirit Week.
The event leads up to homecoming today, when teachers and students are encouraged to wear purple and white, the school’s colors.
Eighth-grade teacher Bob Gambitta said the week is a chance for many students at the school to get involved.
“I think the kids love it,” Gambitta said. “It makes the kids feel like this is their school.”
Beginning Monday, Spirit Week consisted of Pajama Day, Decades Day, Disney/Cartoon Day, Camouflage Day and Purple and White Day.
“It is a tradition we do every year,” said Jesse Milligan, 18, better known as cartoon character Kim Possible. “It is like all the rules go out the door.”
Students aren’t the only ones involved. Throughout the week teachers joined the festivities with bed hair, pajamas, polyester tie-dye shirts and super hero costumes.
Last year during Spirit Week, Gambitta wore the yellow and black colors of Batman for the high school’s Superhero Day. This year, he sported Superman’s trademark red and blue and to top it off, he wore a blue towel with the Superman emblem for a cape.
Amy Johnson, who has been on both sides of Spirit Week, as a student and now as a health teacher and student council adviser, said Spirit Week is a tradition that goes farther back than she can recall.
“I think they had Spirit Week when my father went here,” Johnson said.
With all the dressing up and school spirit, there is a bit of rivalry between the grades. During the week, grades compete for points and the grade with the most points gets the coveted Spirit Jug.
“It is an old purple ceramic milk jug,” Johnson said. “The winning class gets to write their year on it and display it somewhere prominent.”
Johnson said the junior class, this year’s senior class, won the cup last year.
Elizabeth Etz, 17, wanted this Spirit Week to be memorable.
“I decided I would go all out this year ’cause this is my last year,” said Etz.
Etz, who gave Minnie Mouse a run for her money, used what was already in her possession to make her outfit.
“I had the ears,” Etz said. Coupled with black tights and shirt and a red polka dot skirt that was once a dress, the ears made Etz the perfect Minnie.

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Tom Russell, 17, who soon will play Danny Zuko in the high school’s version of “Grease,” wore his pajamas on Monday. And on Decades Day, Russell said, he wore the garb of a 1920s gangster.
Although Russell came as himself for Disney/Cartoon Day, he said Spirit Week is fun.
“(Spirit Week) is something you can really get into,” said Russell, a senior.
On Thursday, which was Camouflage Day, the school held a bonfire featuring food, music and games.
Gambitta said the school is giving the students the last hour and a half of the school day to hold a pep rally today, also known as Purple and White Day.
“It is the week you live for,” said Victoria Convertini, 17, who started off Disney/Cartoon Day as the character Sydney Bristo of the television show “Alias” and then morphed into the E-Surance cartoon by the end of the day.
Johnson sees Purple and White Day as the most exciting day.
“It’s pretty crazy,” Johnson said. “People put on purple wigs, face paint and feather boas. It’s not just ‘come in your purple T-shirts and jeans.’”
Johnson said there also would be a game of tug of war and the loudest class cheer.
Capping the week tonight will be the homecoming football game and homecoming dance.

 

 

Auditor: Communication key to solving treasurer issues

By COREY PRESTON
Staff Reporter

An independent auditor told the Cortland County Legislature’s Budget and Finance Committee Thursday that none of the problems he found were serious enough to trigger a state audit, and said that better communication countywide could likely solve many of the issues.
“The correction to the problem is that there needs to be more communication between Mr. Schrader’s (County Administrator Scott Schrader) office, the treasurer, and the department in charge of the projects,” McNeilly said of one particular issue involving the reporting of the finances of the county’s capital projects.
Still, some members of the committee, recalling the situation in 2004 in which a scathing state audit prompted the Legislature to censure Treasurer Don Ferris and to ask for his resignation, were concerned that problems in the Treasurer’s Office persisted.
“I’m not pleased because this has been going on since 2002,” Committee Chair Ron Van Dee (D-5th Ward) said after the meeting.
Van Dee requested that all accounts be reconciled by the Treasurer’s Office in the next 30 days, and said the county would ask in-house auditor Dennis Whitt to begin checking to see that accounts are balanced.
Whitt said at the meeting that his job description does not include such monitoring.
The committee also asked McNeilly to come back for another audit in three months to ensure the problems were fixed.
“After three months, it’d better be done, and if it isn’t, we may be on our way to another censure,” Van Dee said.
Ferris defended his office during the meeting, saying a lack of communication from department heads was a prime reason for the lack of control over capital projects cited in the audit, and attributing the two un-balanced accounts pointed out by McNeilly to staff shortages.
He also said his office was working to remedy a number of the issues.
“I think in general it was a fairly clean audit,” Ferris said. “I had some suggestions on some of the things that should be done and generally the committee seemed to be agreeable and not too contentious on most of the issues.”
Ferris and Deputy Treasurer Carolyn Kennedy said one reason for the problems with the un-balanced accounts was that the office had to track down a number of outstanding checks that dated back to 2004.
“The dollar amounts, while they weren’t significant, weren’t correct and that’s a problem,” Ferris said. “A big part of that was we were still chasing those numbers to try and get them to the penny.”
Ferris said his office has not reconciled a number of accounts through August, but the primary reason for this was that a staff member who usually handles reconciliation was sick for an extended period of time.
He was hopeful the office would soon be caught up on reconciling all of its accounts.

 

 

County has $6M surplus in 2005

By COREY PRESTON
Staff Reporter

While much of the discussion Thursday at the Budget and Finance Committee’s review of a yearly audit revolved around problems found, the auditor had good news for the county.
The county’s revenues for 2005 exceeded its expenditures by $6,096,463, essentially growing its fund balance to $14,672,192.
While the county brought in about $700,000 less in revenue than it ultimately budgeted for, it spent more than $8 million less than budgeted.
Independent auditor Rick McNeilly said the county had planned, in 2005, to use $1.9 million of its then nearly $9 million fund balance, but instead managed to increase the balance.
McNeilly suggested the county had become more careful with its spending since it experienced financial problems due to the high costs of Medicaid three years ago, and committee members agreed, while also crediting the hiring of County Administrator Scott Schrader in 2003.
“Yeah, it’s a result of us tightening our belts a bit,” said committee Chair Ron Van Dee (D-5th Ward).
“And we’re going to have to continue to tighten now that we’re going to be cutting our sales tax revenue.”
The county will vote next week on a sales tax agreement that will reduce its share of total revenues by 4 percent by the year 2009.
“It’s good to have a nice surplus, because it gets you better rates when you bond for projects,” said committee member Danny Ross (R-Cortlandville). “We made a decision to try to make our bond rating better, and we did.”
County Auditor Dennis Whitt said when the Legislature decided to hire a county administrator, it had building a solid fund balance in mind.
“With a budget officer as opposed to an administrator, you basically spend whatever you have budgeted,” Whitt said. “An administrator’s job though is to look at every opportunity to save money as the year goes along, and then he passes that along to the Legislature to make a decision.”
Encouraged by McNeilly’s estimate that the county’s fund balance would ultimately add up to about 15 percent of the total budget in the coming year, committee member Newell Willcox (R-Homer) was anxious to discuss how the money will be spent.
“As I recall four years ago, when we as a group decided we should maintain a 10 percent relationship (between the surplus and the total budget), I was in agreement with the proviso that anything over 10 percent should go back to the taxpayers of this county in the form of a tax rebate,” Willcox said. “It’s their money and you can bet I will push for that as we sit down to work on our budget.”

 

Homer to hold hearing on Town Hall renovations

BY CHRISTINE LAUBENSTEIN
Staff Reporter

HOMER — Town board members will decide which town hall renovation plan to go with after a Nov. 1 public hearing on competing proposals.
The board has to settle on the location of a wheelchair-accessible elevator in the Town Hall on North Main Street. The board discussed the project Wednesday night.
The cost of building the elevator ranges from $120,000 to $211,500, depending on where the elevator is. The town will also undertake about $250,000 in renovations to its courtroom in the Town Hall.
The elevator has been suggested for either the southwest, southeast or northeast portions of the building.
If an elevator is constructed at the northeast portion it could either be outside or inside, board members said Wednesday. An outside elevator would not cut into the mayor’s office, Town Supervisor Fred Forbes said.
The various plans will be available at the Town Hall starting in about two weeks, along with the cost of each proposal. The public hearing will take place at 7 p.m. Nov. 1 in the Town Hall.
A southwest entry elevator would cost about $120,000 while an outside northeast entry elevator would cost about $211,500. Estimates for a southeast entry elevator and an inside northeast entry elevator should be available soon, Forbes said.
Board members also talked about whether they should knock down a house just north of the Town Hall that the town recently purchased. If it’s knocked down the town could build a parking lot across the north side of the building, which would cater to an elevator at the northeast part of the building.
If the town doesn’t knock the house down, it will almost certainly sell the house, Forbes said this morning.
Board members, with the exception of Forbes, did not seem to have strong opinions about where to put the elevator and related questions.
“I know I’m ready to vote on that,” Forbes said about the location of the elevator. “But I just don’t know if the board is.”