Tag Archives: taxpayer

Clarence: The War on Apathy Begins

19 May

On the one hand, we’ve got a well-funded conspiracy to destroy the Clarence schools.

On the other hand, we’ve got apathy.

It might be similar in your town, but then again not every  town has a bunch of businesses and developers working in concert to destroy the schools and depress property values. In some towns, businesses like to forge lasting and mutually beneficial relationships with local residents.

They say Clarence doesn’t “respect the taxpayer”. The data say otherwise:

Dashboard 1

The conspiracy involves the child-hating “Clarence Taxpayers” cabal, the Americans for Prosperity tea party astroturf types, and big developers in town, led by Paul Stephen and his henchman, Noel Dill. Lawn signs for the anti-school board candidate are popping up in front of properties owned by developers, who have no qualms about depressing property values so they can make a few more bucks off the brick garbage they put up – without question – around town. They’re all vultures, circling and waiting to pick at the carcass of a community they’re working to destroy.

Derelict Abandoned Motels for Worling

What they don’t understand is that they can’t win. The Triborough Amendment renders toothless any effort to strong-arm the teachers and their union. If the district and teachers don’t come to terms on a new contract, the existing contract remains in effect until they do, someday. These dummies think that they can force the district to hire a “professional contract negotiator” who will perform magic to bring the teachers to heel.

Also, the teachers aren’t the enemy. They deserve what they earn. These professionals deserve and earn their salaries and benefits. Stop blaming the teachers for non-existent problems.

Their hand-picked anti-school candidate has the nerve to ask parents to voluntarily pay more in taxes to fund things like clubs, extracurriculars, electives, AP classes, sports, and music, but we’re all supposed to pitch in to pay for a “negotiator”, even though we pay one – the superintendent – a lot of money to do that job.

I don’t use “child-hating” lightly. I won’t link to their abortion of a website, but the only things the “Clarence Taxpayers” group has gotten excited about are the schools, they’ve successfully blocked town efforts to help build an ice rink complex at Eastern Hills Mall, and an indoor soccer facility. That’s it: they’ve only ever opposed anything having to do with kids.

These people are monsters masquerading as taxpayer advocates.

Rock the War on Public Education

Parents are pissed off at this blatant war being waged against their kids. We’ve had it with these malicious efforts to pit seniors against middle-class families who just want their kids to have the same great schools that past generations enjoyed. The wealthy, like the anti-school candidate for the board, send their kids to private schools anyway.

That’s right. The anti-school guy who is running for the public school board sends his kids to Christian Central Academy. His family has no educational investment whatsoever in the schools. Meanwhile, I’ve delivered signs and palmcards to modest homes whose occupants rely on public education.

If you’re in Clarence, please vote yes for the school budget, vote yes for the modest bus proposition, and vote for Tricia Andrews, Matt Stock, and Maryellen Kloss.

We have two enemies – apathy, and the people who exploit it.

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Erie County: No Deputy Comptroller for Audit since September 9

30 Oct

Former Deputy Comptroller for Audit Teresa Fraas resigned on September 8th, after just about 8 months on the job. The Comptroller retained her services based on her qualifications as a CPA and internal auditor, having worked most of her career in the health care industry. She left shortly after a manufactured fiasco she was part of with respect to an audit of DSS record disposal. No one has been hired to replace her. 

From an article about the Mychajliw comptrollership, dated January 22, 2013

By many accounts, outgoing Comptroller David Shenk left the place a mess.

A Certified Public Accountant has not been in charge as Deputy Comptroller for Audit since 2006. Nobody could find an annual Audit Plan that mapped out the year for auditors and set specific benchmarks on when work needed to be done. The office’s audit manual was from the Ice Age, annual reviews and evaluations were not done for workers and the number of staff was gutted over the years.

“Our current staff did their best under tough circumstances,” Mychajliw said. “Keep in mind, there was no Erie County Comptroller for two months last year and no Deputy Comptroller for Audit for four months. I’m sure that had a very negative impact.”

Without an organized Annual Audit Plan or benchmarks for performance, Comptroller staff told Mychajliw they were marched into the office, handed an assignment to audit, and that was it. To improve that process, the new Comptroller hired a private sector CPA, Terry Fraas – the first CPA to lead the Audit Division since 2006.

Shenk is now serving a tour of duty in the Middle East.  The deputy comptroller for audit under Mark Poloncarz (and part of the time under David Shenk) was Michael Szukala. Although not a CPA, Szukala is an award-winning  Certified Internal Auditor with over 20 years of experience with municipal auditing. Szukala holds an MBA from UB and a Bachelor’s of Science in Accounting from the University of Dayton. He was the City of Buffalo’s supervising auditor from 1988 – 2006

Mychajliw blames the “mess” he found in the Comptroller’s office on the absence of a deputy comptroller for audit. Erie County has now been without a person in that position for almost 2 months. One would think that this would be setting us up for another “mess” or “tough circumstances” or “negative impact”, according to Mychajliw’s own words

Mychajliw has been in office since January and produced only a single arguably legitimate audit – oh, he calls things “audits”, but that doesn’t magically make them so. The big reveal?  30 former employees were still named as authorized users of an internal county fuel system. They didn’t hold “Gasbuddy” cards, nor had anyone obtained fuel who shouldn’t have – their names were just on the list. These names were purged. Total savings to the taxpayer: arglebargle. 

– Whatever happened to the Medicaid audit, press-released in January? Why did the comptroller’s office refer to a simple review of internal procedures as an “audit“? When will the “audit” of the county’s welfare programs be complete? How are these alleged audits affected by the departure of the deputy comptroller for audit? What will today’s media alert be about?

UPDATE: Hey, remember the audits of the Erie County Water Authority? 

In September 2012, while running for Comptroller, Mychajliw made a point of criticizing ECWA hiring practices. Then-comptroller David Shenk had just warned ECWA of an upcoming audit, but Mychajliw pounced: 

“It’s too little too late,” Mychajliw said of Shenk’s proposed audit. “This should have been done months ago. Had this been done months ago, the friends and family plan wouldn’t be back in county government. And from my perspective, if I anger politicians and party bosses, good. That means I’m doing my job protecting taxpayers.”

Shenk released his ECWA audit in January 2013. Mychajliw reacted

New Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw said although he’s happy Shenk completed his audit before he left office, Mychajliw says that won’t stop him from doing his own audit of the Water Authority.

Scott Brown: “Are you willing to look at salaries over there and the number of employees they have?”

Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw: “Absolutely Scott, the same way that 2 On Your Side did, I plan on using our audit team to do exactly that. I think it’s really important to see how those salaries compare to other water authorities across the state and also to the private sector. We plan on going a lot deeper.”

Mychajliw says he plans on starting his audit of the Water Authority within the next six months. He says he’s also going to take a look at hiring practices at the Board of Elections and the Erie County Clerk’s office.

“Within the next six months” is June 2013. Has it begun? If it takes three months to complete, shouldn’t it have been completed by September 2013? Where’s Mychajliw’s ECWA audit?! Connected people were still being hired for plum jobs well into 2013

Maybe it has to do with not rocking the boat for Langworthy relative Amy Garcia

 

Not Just a Taxpayer

29 May

I’m going to apologize for my lack of posts lately and in the next few weeks. I’m a Clarence resident and parent of two school-age kids, and last week’s school budget defeat has led me to become an active parent-taxpayer in the town.

For a decade, I had thought that the schools in Clarence were sacrosanct, and people would be willing to do whatever it took to keep the schools excellent. I was wrong. Losing that vote was like finding out your spouse was cheating on you the whole time – the town didn’t love the schools like that; it’s not the schools, it’s us. 

Indeed, at a meeting last night in a packed high school auditorium, people did what people always do when there’s nickel-and-diming afoot; they begged for mercy. 

Here you have one of the most cost-effective districts in WNY, and the number two school district. Instead of discussing what it would take to get to number one, we were talking about the teachers, staffers, and programs that would be cut. I don’t know how you cut your way to excellence, and I don’t know how eliminating teachers, raising class sizes, and getting rid of several modified sports and all freshman sports, firing three music teachers, a social worker, a guidance counselor, and several ELA, math, and science teachers is going to get Clarence to #1. 

What we’re going to find out is how people and things cost money. We’re going to find out that cutting and austerity lead to poor quality and a stressed system. 

But we also learned that there are some very passionate taxpayer-parents in town, and they are united and determined to prevent something like the past couple of weeks from ever happening again.  Nothing will be taken for granted, and never again will we be caught unaware. 

The budget revote is June 18th, so my posting here may be light as I concentrate on preserving the quality of my kids’ schools, and help to ensure the continued brightness of their future. Tea party austerity be damned.