Letters to the Editor May 26

People can’t afford housing

Recently the Poughkeepsie Journal published an excellent and factual article on the impossibility for many Dutchess County residents to afford a rental home.

Correctly stated, the Dutchess County Fair Market Rent (FMR) for a two-bedroom apartment is $1,128. In order to afford this level of rent and utilities, without paying more than 30 percent of income on housing, a household must earn $3,760 monthly or $45,120 annually. Assuming a 40-hour work week, 52 weeks per year, this level of income translates into a housing wage of $21.69.  Only 68 cents less than New York state as a whole including Metro N.Y., Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester.

What was also stated in the source report from the National Coalition on Low Income Housing is the incredible inequity for minimum wage earners to maintain a safe, family home in Dutchess County, or anywhere in New York state.

In Dutchess County, a minimum wage worker earns an hourly wage of $7.25. In order to afford the FMR for a two-bedroom apartment, a minimum wage earner must work 120 hours per week, 52 weeks per year. Or, a household must include three minimum wage earners working 40 hours per week year-round in order to make the two bedrooms FMR affordable.  

This is one of the many reasons our low-income young people are not going to school — their income is critical to the family staying together. These minimum wage earners are critical components of the infrastructure that makes our community work. They are not disposable.

In Dutchess County, the estimated mean (average) wage for a renter is $13.01 an hour. In order to afford the FMR for a two-bedroom apartment at this wage, a renter must work 67 hours per week, 52 weeks per year. Or, working 40 hours per week year-round, a household must include 1.7 workers earning the mean renter wage in order to make the two-bedroom FMR affordable.  Incredibly daunting but can be accomplished.

How can a minimum wage earner possibly maintain a home for the family?

Monthly Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments for an individual are $761 in Dutchess County. If SSI represents an individual’s sole source of income, $228 in monthly rent is affordable, while the FMR for a one-bedroom is $922. Again how can this be? Are our disabled or elderly residents no longer of value?

In reality few minimum wage jobs are 40 hours a week, in part to avoid the need to pay benefits. Many of Community Action’s customers work three part-time minimum wage jobs just to make a 40 hour week and are still utilizing emergency benefits to feed, clothe and shelter their families.

We must pull together as a community and a country to correct the injustices of economic prejudice.

We will not have homeland security if a significant percentage of our population do not have even their basic needs met through work, and our children have less and less hope of the comforts we have all enjoyed.

Joseph Olah, President

Dutchess County Community Action Partnership

Poughkeepsie

Held up for ransom

The budget in Pine Plains is the only budget in Dutchess County that was defeated last week. What does that tell the school board and the administration? Once again our children are held up for ransom for the extracurricular activities they so deserve and need in this community.

Does the administration, who do not live in the community, ever think that the taxpayers are making a statement for the way they are wasting our tax dollars or are bilking this school district?

I believe that the budget will be once again put up for a vote but will it really reflect that our children, who are supposed to be educated for the tax money spent, are getting the benefits they should be? This question is up to the Board of Education and mostly up to the administration.

Ann Noone Croghan

Pine Plains
 

Has decided not to seek another term

 It has been my pleasure to serve a one-year term on Webutuck’s school board. After much deliberation, I have decided not to run for a second term. I feel I owe you all an explanation.

It seems our school district has been deteriorating since I moved here seven years ago. The main reason that I ran for school board was to see why there is such a large turn-over rate of administrators. I joined the board with a pessimistic view and an arrogant attitude, hoping to be able to pinpoint exactly what isn’t working at Webutuck.

We are a small district and should be excelling. We should be managed like and able to compete academically with local private schools. I now see that it is not that simple.

I had no idea of the level of personal commitment that each board member in our district possesses. My first month on the board last May, my eyes were opened to a plethora of decisions and dilemmas that the board is faced with each day.

The public has no idea what an emotional burden this creates. I saw board members scream at one another in frustration. I saw members leave meetings in disgust. I also saw board members cry at the loss of a student as if it were their own child. Their connection and concern for the students should never be questioned. Each board member, despite differing views and opinions, wants the best for our kids.

I joined a board expecting a lack of leadership, but what I found is a lack of commitment in our community. The meetings are held twice a month and the attendance rate at meetings averages about five community members, administrators and the reporter. The hostility seen in audience members’ faces is disheartening, as well as discriminating. It pains me to live in a community that points fingers, rather than seeks solutions.

In defense of the school board and the superintendent, there is no one who wants to see teachers lose jobs or students lose good teachers. Our community elects Board of Education members and should have faith in those elected to make informed decisions.

The community has to take responsibility if they do not participate in the decision-making process. The night of the preliminary budget presentation we had six community members present. The following week we had a full house demanding answers about staff reductions.

The board handles a huge burden with little thanks, and a truckload of criticism. Before you speak negatively, I urge you to step up, run for a seat on the board or at least just show up to meetings and participate.

Casey A. Swift  

Millerton
 

 

Letter writer got it wrong about the new assessments

Last week The Millerton News published a letter from Pam Michaud, who seized upon an issue of public concern regarding new property assessments in order to twist it around, confuse information and through innuendo smear me and others.

Property assessment values that are being proposed by the assessor’s office are determined by the assessor. They are not dictated or controlled by the Town Board or, for that matter, by any report or planning study as Michaud suggested.

In respect to the Assessor’s Office Study Group Report, nothing in that report directs or suggests an assessment value to be assigned to any property on the town’s assessment roll. The study group included Daniel Briggs, Martin Tessler, Peter Judge, David Shufelt, John Campbell and I. I am proud to have organized that committee and to have served along with my fellow citizens to address a serious problem that faced our town.

The study group’s report cited that the main goal of all assessments should be fairness and equity. The report recommended improvement in all aspects of record keeping, including better parcel data collection and the maintenance of special agricultural assessment files. To suggest that such a recommendation was intended to be prejudicial or harmful to farming in our town is completely wrong-headed.

During my time in town government, I have served with many persons who have had all types of views on public issues. I have worked to resolve differences, to build consensus and create sound results that benefit our community.  That is a hallmark of representative government working properly, which I deeply respect.

There will be those who may disagree with the results.  It would be unrealistic to expect otherwise in a community with diverse views as our own. However, that does not give license to those who do disagree to distort the efforts of others and malign the integrity of their service to the community.

David Sherman

North East Town Supervisor

Millerton

 

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