Tonawanda News

February 27, 2014

GUEST VIEW: Veteran grades recent Niagara-Wheatfield school board meeting

By Paul Bax
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — It’s been a long time since I attended a Niagara-Wheatfield School District school board meeting. I attended the meeting on Feb. 12 and here are some of my observations of the evening’s events. I will grade them accordingly.

Cleanness: A. The meeting room is spacious and clean. The chairs were comfortable. The room is bright and lively.

Tardiness: F. The meeting started late. The Niagara-Wheatfield school board’s meeting start at 6 p.m., if they anticipated being late as a courtesy to the public, we should have been informed. If one of the district’s students is late for school, I am sure they are spoken to.

Patriotism: F. The school board did not start the public session with the “Pledge Of Allegiance.” I can understand a prayer not being said because of the separation of church and state. A moment of silence at the beginning of the public session would suffice.

Format: A. Roberts Rules of Order were followed and adhered to.

Audio-Visual: C. It appears the school district spent tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars for the computerized system to please the Arber Society. The public could not read the screens, nor hear the presenters.

Presentations: C. There were two presentations given by members of the school staff. The first presenter could not be heard on several occasions. Again, the presentations on the video screens could not be seen by the public. The second set of presenters could not be heard nor the material on the screens be seen. The whole presentation had the backs of the presenters to the public. They spoke to the board and only the board. I am sure the presenters knew their material, but I had know way of judging. Again, as a courtesy the board could have moved to the first row in the public section and the presenters would have then faced the public.

Finances: F. The Niagara-Wheatfield School District is under the gun from the state of New York for this board and past boards poor handling of taxpayers’ dollars. The Veterans Tax Credit was debated by the board. It’s a non-monetary issue for the school district. The Veterans Tax Credit was signed into law in December 2013 by the governor. The law does not cost the district a dime. This law will cost the non-veteran taxpayer some of their hard-earned money in support of the veterans living in their community, many of whom are receiving veterans’ benefits and some relief with their school tax bill would be welcomed. The governor gave school boards across the state the “explicit authority” to give veterans a tax break on school taxes. They do not have to put it out to a public vote. The board has until March 1, 2014, to pass the law by adopting a resolution extending the tax break to veterans. The law is quite specific. Some of the school board members wanted to put the law to a public vote shirking their duty the law gives them, therefore, passing the buck.

The school board tabled the issue for lack of information. Because of their ineptness, veterans will have to wait until the 2015 tax roles are finalized. So all the talk the board did about supporting veterans, in a split second they turned their backs on all the veterans in the Niagara-Wheatfield School District by tabling the discussion to another meeting. Time is of the essence. A date for a public hearing in the next week could have been made rather than tabling the discussion. The next meeting of the school board is March 5, four days after the deadline. The Niagara-Wheatfield School Board has had since mid-December to discuss this issue amongst themselves and with the public. The board has had three public meetings since the Jan. 1. The Veterans Tax Credit was not even on the agenda until Feb. 12.

Communication: F. Some members of the school board were aware of the new law but for whatever reasons did not communicate the new law to other members of the board. As I said to the board, my mother always told me growing up, “Ignorance of the law is no excuse.”

I am not a spokesman for any veterans agency or group. I am a veteran, and I do have a vested interest in the new law, having my taxes lowered. I attended the Niagara-Wheatfield school board meeting to pass on information to the board about the law. I am ashamed as a veteran and a member of the school district that the board tabled the resolution. Today, I drove by the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station. I saluted the American flag, looked into the air and said, “Forgive them God (school board), for they know not what they do.”

I encourage all veterans in the Niagara-Wheatfield School District to attend the next school board meeting at 7 p.m. March 5 at the Adult Learning Center located on the right side of the high school. Let’s honor those veterans who cannot attend.

Paul Bax is a North Tonawanda resident