Our unfinished business
To the editor:
In response to the extreme flooding that devastated portions of Montgomery County last month, I introduced legislation that would allow, at local option, people to seek a lowered property tax assessment for their flood damaged homes and businesses (S.5915).
The Montgomery County Board of Supervisors unanimously endorsed the measure because it would help the people of Fort Plain to rebuild their lives, their homes and their businesses. And, because as a simple matter of fairness, it is reasonable that we allow property owners to pay taxes that are based on the current, post-flood condition of their home.
It is imperative that the state Legislature return to Albany and approve this measure before local property tax bills are sent out.
I have spent many days in Fort Plain since the flooding, and have seen firsthand how incredibly resilient the people here are. But I've also seen just how overwhelming this tragedy has been, and it is clear that Fort Plain needs help.
Fortunately, there has been some assistance. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) did approve disaster relief for the roads, bridges and buildings in those communities, but denied it for home owners and local businesses. Thankfully, Gov. Andrew Cuomo stepped in, and was able to identify and re-direct $16 million in state aid to the affected communities throughout the Mohawk Valley.
Additionally, I recently brought together local business owners with investors and economic developers to discuss the tools and resources that are available to begin the rebuilding of the community.
However, more needs to be done. Property owners will be focused in the months ahead on replacing their furnaces, repairing their electrical systems and removing hazardous mold from their homes. They should not have the additional burden of an unfair tax bill, based on the pre-flood condition of their property, looming on the horizon.
Returning to Albany would also allow the state Legislature to compensate local municipalities for the loss of tax revenues. The flood-damaged towns and villages have suffered greatly, and spent so much on cleanup and assisting people in need. If they opt-in to help their residents rebuild, the state should be there to help them absorb the loss of revenue.
These issues can, and must, be addressed by the Legislature as soon as possible. Bringing the Legislature back to Albany for action does not require that the governor call for a special session. The Senate and Assembly currently stand adjourned, and can be recalled to Albany by their respective leaders at any time.
What is required is the commitment of our leaders to finish that which was left undone. There is no time, nor reason, to wait.
Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk,
The writer is the Democratic state senator from the 46th District.
Lunches available this summer
To the editor:
ABC Ten news recently reported on the "kick off" of the Schenectady summer lunch program. This annual program, funded by the NYS Education Department and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, provides free lunches to hungry kids. Unfortunately hungry kids aren't just in the inner city. Far too many children go hungry in our own small towns and villages, too.
Thankfully, the Summer Food Service Program isn't limited to Schenectady. The program serves counties throughout New York state including Warren, Washington, Saratoga, Fulton and Montgomery counties and runs through the month of August.
The Summer Food Service Program was established to ensure that low-income children continue to receive nutritious meals when school is not in session. Free meals, that meet federal nutrition guidelines, are provided to all children 18 years old and under at approved SFSP sites in areas with significant concentrations of low-income children.
Find a Summer Food Service Site near you: http://www.fns.usda.gov/summer-food-service-program-sfsp