Monday, September 18, 2017

Bijoy Datta Unanimously Re-Elected as Broome Republican Chairman

For immediate release:  Monday, September 18, 2017
For more information contact: Bijoy Datta, 607-768-7088bijoy@broomerepublicans.com
(BINGHAMTON, N.Y.) — Bijoy Datta was re-elected tonight to a a third term as Broome County Republican Chairman in a unanimous vote by local Republican Committee Members. Chairman Datta was nominated by Broome County Legislature Chairman Dan Reynolds and seconded by Senator Fred Akshar.

“It’s an honor to be re-elected to a third term as Republican Chairman,” said Datta. “I’m proud that we’ve worked together to build a strong team over the last several years and developed a powerful ground game and media operation.”

“Looking ahead to this fall, 2018 and beyond, we’ll keep working hard to recruit great candidates, run aggressive campaigns, and elect Republicans to office who are focused on keeping taxes down and reducing the size of government.”

Also elected tonight were First Vice Chair Paul VanSavage of the Town of Binghamton, Secretary Chris Dziedzic of the City of Binghamton, and Treasurer Laurie Gialanella of Vestal.

More information about the Broome County Republican Committee can be found at www.Facebook.com/BroomeRepublicans and www.BroomeRepublicans.com.


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Friday, April 21, 2017

Broome County Clerk Candidate Joe Mihalko Calls on Albany to Keep Local Tax Dollars Local

(BINGHAMTON, NY) — Broome County Clerk candidate Joe Mihalko joined local leaders on Thursday to call on Albany to repeal and reform state unfunded mandates keep to more local tax dollars in the community. 

Currently, more than half of all Broome County property taxes collected go to unfunded mandates from Albany and 87.5% of all locally DMV fees collected leave the community.

“Our residents pay some of the highest property taxes and fees in the nation,” said Mihalko. “Too often, they see their hard-earned money go to Albany and never return. We need leaders who will stand up for our community, demand our fair share and pass the savings on to the people we serve.”

Mihalko identified five pieces of legislation to address this problem and called on leaders in Albany to act immediately to reduce the burden on taxpayers and local government.

1. Five-Year Medicaid Takeover for Small Cities (S.1251, Akshar) - Medicaid accounts for 52% of the Broome property taxes. This bill calls for a five-year state takeover of local Medicaid expenses for cities with a population of one million or less. The bill also provides that savings passed along to property tax payers by reducing the allowable levy under the tax cap.

2. Increasing the Local Share of DMV Fees (S.1908, Ritchie/A.3397, Brindisi) - As one of the many shared services local municipalities provide, Broome County is mandated to collect DMV fees and process transactions for the state. The state keeps 87.5% of these fees. This bill would increase the local share from 12.5% to 25% without raising fees for local residents. 

3. Public Defense Mandate Relief Act (S.8114, DeFrancisco/A.10706, Fahy) - Requires state reimbursement to counties the full amount of expenditures for indigent legal services and alleviate another unfunded mandate. Passed by both houses, vetoed by the Governor.

4. Reimbursement for DA Salaries Increases (S.519, Young/A.751, Gunther) - Requires the state to reimburse counties for state-mandated salary increases to District Attorneys.

5. Broad State Mandate Relief (S.2323, Griffo/A.2922, Brindisi) - Requires any state mandated program imposed on municipalities and school districts to be funded by the state. 

Leaders from various levels of local government welcome potential relief from the many unfunded mandates imposed upon municipalities in Broome County.

"I agree with Senator Akshar and County Clerk candidate Joe Mihalko that these unfunded state mandates have to stop. I'm proud that the Broome County Legislature passed a set of four resolutions at our March legislation session calling on the state government to address these issues in the ongoing budget discussions," said Broome County Legislative Chairman Daniel J. Reynolds. "Fred Akshar and Joe Mihalko are fighting for local taxpayers, and this is crucial."

Senator Fred Akshar said he's listened to the concerns of local leaders and has signed on as sponsor and cosponsor of the bills outlined by Mihalko.

“I'm proud to represent leaders willing to stand up and demand fair treatment,” said Akshar. “Albany needs to wake up and realize that the current model of crippling unfunded mandates is unsustainable for school districts, municipalities and the hardworking taxpayers.

As County Clerk, Mihalko pledged to continue to strongly advocate for these reforms.

“Unfunded mandates have repeatedly gutted the budgets of our local governments and school districts, forcing them to do more with less,” said Mihalko. “The State needs take some responsibility and reduce these unfair burdens on our communities.”


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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Two Weeks Into Office, Garnar Already Flip-Flops on Personnel Promise

(BINGHAMTON, N.Y.) — Broome County Republican Committee Chairman Bijoy Datta today took to task Democrat County Executive Jason Garnar for flip-flopping on his promise to remove politics from the process of making personnel appointments in his administration.
 
“We’re only two weeks into the Garnar Administration and already we’re seeing the worst of partisan politics from him,” said Datta.
 
“Jason Garnar told the people of Broome County that he would make personnel appointments based on experience and qualifications. But for the County Office of Employment and Training, he fired a respected executive with 30 years of high-level management and business experience, and proposed to replace him with someone who doesn’t have a single day of private sector experience and who has no qualifications in the field of workforce development.”
 
“There’s a gigantic gap in qualifications and experience between the prior Director and Garnar’s nominee, so it makes you wonder what influenced his decision,” Datta stated. “It’s simple: The highly qualified prior Director is a Republican, while the underqualified nominee is a Democrat.”
 
Previous Director Jim Tripp served in that role since 2014. Prior to that, he was the President of Hidden Valley Electronics in Apalachin, an electronics manufacturing company that employed more than 150 workers, managed a multi-million dollar budget, and worked with major local employers like Lockheed Martin, BAE and Binghamton University. He is also a combat veteran of the U.S. Army and works with the Southern Tier Veterans Support Group, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Disabled American Veterans. Just prior to last month’s Christmas holiday, Garnar’s team informed Mr. Tripp that his services would no longer be needed at the County.
 
On December 28th, Garnar announced his nomination of Sara Liu to serve as the Department’s new Director. Upon leaving college in 2012, she has worked at several non-profits in various capacities, most recently as Director of Chemung County Habitat for Humanity.

Broome County Personnel’s formal job description for the Director of Employment and Training notes in its very first paragraph that the position “involves responsibility for…a wide variety of employment and training of a considerable size and complexity.” In 2017, Department will have a budget of $2.2 million and oversight of 12 employees.
 
“No one holds anything against Ms. Liu, who I’ve never met. She appears to have done some laudable work in the non-profit sector,” Datta noted. “But it’s impossible for Garnar to justify this partisan personnel decision after he preached about bi-partisanship.”
 
Following his Election Day victory, in a story published by Time Warner Cable News on November 8th, Garnar stated that he was “going to work with Republicans and independents and anybody. If you have a good idea, we're going to go with it and I don't care if you're a Republican or an independent”.
 
Garnar stated on his Facebook page on November 10th that “It's so important to work with ALL people, regardless of political affiliation, to move Broome County forward in the right direction”.
 
In a November 12th article published in the Press & Sun-Bulletin, Garnar stated that he would “ensure only the most qualified employees stay on in his administration”.
 
Datta concluded, “Jason Garnar can appoint whomever he wants; he’s the County Executive. But he made a promise to the people of this County that he’s remove politics from the process. The people deserve to know that he flip-flopped on that promise.”
 
The Broome County Legislature will vote on Ms. Liu’s appointment, along with numerous other Garnar nominees, during this Thursday’s5:30 PM Legislative Session.
 
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Thursday, January 12, 2017

Joe Mihalko elected Binghamton City Council President

Source: Press & Sun-Bulletin, Jan. 5, 2017

The Binghamton City Council elected as its president Joseph Mihalko, R-District 2, Tuesday evening, and chose Giovanni Scaringi, R-District 1, and Dani Cronce, D-District 3, as its majority and minority leaders, respectively.

The changes were part of a routine reorganization that takes place every January, and included naming chairs for the council's six committees Wednesday evening.

Mihalko, formerly chairman of the finance committee, replaces Chris Papastrat, R-District 5, who served in the position for a year.

First elected in 2011, Mihalko often appears as a marked contrast to some of the bigger personalities and louder voices on the city council, mostly observing and listening during council work sessions. But as chairman of finance, he wielded a significant amount of power and could decide whether to bring items to a committee vote.

As president, he'll be tasked with coordinating the council's agenda, running meetings that can sometimes veer off course and deciding what resolutions will be considered in council work sessions.

Councilman John Matzo, R-District 6, succeeds Mihalko as chair of finance, and Scaringi will head the Municipal & Public Affairs and Planning & Community Development committees. Thomas Scanlon, R-District 7, who took office this month after defeating Democrat Justin MacGregor, will head the Public Works & Parks Committee.

Mayor David, Sen. Akshar Announce $450K Lee Barta Community Center Expansion

(BINGHAMTON, N.Y.) — Mayor Richard C. David today joined Senator Fred Akshar, United Way of Broome County Executive Director Robin Alpaugh, and Visions Federal Credit Union CEO Tyrone Muse to announce a massive expansion project for the Lee Barta Community Center at 108 Liberty St. on Binghamton’s North Side.

“Our commitment to Binghamton’s neighborhoods has never been stronger,” said Mayor Richard C. David. “We are investing in the North Side, historically one of the most disadvantaged areas in our region, to bring hope and opportunity to residents. This new community center will focus resources and empower hardworking families to pull themselves out of poverty, reach their education goals and improve quality of life. Sen. Akshar continues to be a great friend to the City of Binghamton and a fighter to improve neighborhoods across the region. I thank Ty Muse and Visions, as well as Robin Alpaugh and the United Way for committing resources for the new Lee Barta Community Center.”

The $450,000 expansion project will provide new neighborhood resources, including state-of-the-art community meeting space, classrooms, computer lab, full-size instructional kitchen, outdoor pavilion and recreation areas. The current facility, owned by the City of Binghamton and staffed by the United Way and other nonprofits, is only 1,200 square-feet. The new facility will be roughly 3,600 square-feet.

The first phase of the project includes purchase and demolition of 110 Liberty St., a vacant and blighted property next to the current facility. Demolition is scheduled to begin in early January and the entire project should be complete in the fall of 2017. The City will also host a community meeting to solicit input on final designs for the project. The meeting is set for Tuesday, Dec. 6 at 6:00 p.m. in the Theodore Roosevelt Elementary School cafeteria, 9 Ogden St. in Binghamton.

The City is funding $100,000 of the project, through a combination of Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and general operating funds.

Senator Fred Akshar has secured $300,000 in grant funds from the State and Municipal Facilities Program of the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York State.

"The Lee Barta Community Center transformation is a great investment for the City of Binghamton," said Senator Fred Akshar. "By expanding the programs and services offered at the Lee Barta Community Center, we'll be able to provide better opportunities and a better quality of life for the families on the North Side. I continue to be inspired by Mayor David's commitment to improving all of the neighborhoods he serves."

Visions Federal Credit Union is providing $50,000 for construction of the Visions Community Room as part of the project. The Visions Community Room will be the home for neighborhood meetings, personal development workshops and workforce training classes.

“This is Visions’ hometown and it’s important for us to be supportive of this community by combining efforts between the public and private sectors to make great things like this happen,” said Ty Muse, President and CEO of Visions Federal Credit Union. “The leadership of Mayor David and Senator Akshar parallels what credit unions are all about – people helping people.  My hope is that the Barta Center will be a safe haven and place of learning that will afford opportunities to those who are most in need.”

The United Way of Broome County staffs three full-time employees, two AmeriCorps members and one intern at the site. As part of the expansion project, the United Way will provide expanded services.

“The United Way of Broome is 100 percent committed to improving lives on the City’s Northside as we work to provide real community impact through our ongoing programs and projects, including the Healthy Lifestyles Coalition (HLC) based at the Barta Center, initiated by the Klee Foundation in 2012 in partnership with United Way,” said Robin Alpaugh, Executive Director, United Way of Broome County. “Due to the success of HLC offerings, including Fresh Cycles bike programming for youth and healthy cooking classes for families, we’ve outgrown Barta and are excited to partner with local government leaders to expand, relying on neighborhood input for establishing a true community center.”

In 1998, the Lee Barta Center opened as a Binghamton Police substation. It was named for Patrolman Lee Barta, a Binghamton Police officer who on Aug. 3, 1995 was shot and killed in the line of duty on the same block. Barta was 29 years old.

Programs currently operating at the Lee Barta Community Center, which would be expanded with a new facility, include:

·         Fresh Cycles: Bike repair classes and group rides for children and adults.

·         Cornell Cooperative Extension Cooking Class: Parent-focused class for childhood nutrition.

·         CHOW Fresh Mobile Market: Patrons can purchase fresh fruits and vegetables at a reduced price at a mobile food market. Partnership with the City of Binghamton.

·         VINES Binghamton Farmshare: Weekly distribution of fresh local produce, most at a discounted rate. Partnership with VINES: Volunteers Improving Neighborhood Environments which grows food in urban farms.

·         Binghamton University HEARS Tutoring: Higher Education Access, Retention and Success (HEARS) tutors counsel North Side residents to reach their education and career goals. They assist individuals who have dropped out of high school or college and connect them with educational resources.

·         Promise Zone Parent Café: Helping connect parents of Binghamton City School District students. Guest presenters organize various activities (animal shelter volunteering, yoga, etc.) A healthy lunch is served at each café.

·         North Side Roots: Neighborhood assembly meeting to discuss community issues. Officials from Binghamton Police Department, Broome County District Attorney, local housing providers and more present and brainstorm ideas on solutions.

·         Excellus Health Coaching Program: 90 individuals participate to identify specific health goals. Residents work toward being official peer health coaches in the program and will then be given the opportunity to work on a certification and work with other participants as a coach.

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Sen. Akshar's new program supports agricultural education

Source: Press & Sun-Bulletin, Jan. 6, 2017

Students in five school districts across the Southern Tier will soon get a taste of what it's like to be a New York state farmer.

Growing Our Agri-Future — a program announced Friday at C.R. Weeks Elementary School in Windsor by State Sen. Fred Akshar, R-District 52, Cornell Cooperative Extension, Broome-Tioga BOCES and school superintendents — will bring agricultural educators into classrooms across the 52nd District.

Five school districts will participate in the pilot program — Harpursville, Maine-Endwell, Owego Apalachin, Union-Endicott and Windsor — and students will learn about pathways to working in agriculture.

“As a young man, I was raised in rural Afton, NY, where, like many parts of our community, agriculture is a way of life and an important economic driver,” Akshar said in a statement.

“Agriculture is one of the biggest and most diverse industries in our community and the state, but the average age of a farmer in New York is 55. That tells me we need to invest in our future and help educate the next generation on the wide range of career opportunities available through agriculture.”

Students at C.R. Weeks Elementary School at the announcement Students at C.R. Weeks Elementary School at the announcement of an agricultural education program.

Starting this semester, each school will receive 14 lessons a month. Those lessons could range from learning about the science of farming to growing food in school gardens to going on tours at local farms. Cornell Cooperative Extension will administer the program’s classes and curriculum.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Mayor Rich David Delivers First Residential Tax Cut Since 1998

Press & Sun-Bulletin (BINGHAMTON, N.Y.) — Binghamton Mayor Rich David released a 2017 budget on Tuesday evening containing reduced tax rates for commercial and residential property owners.
Saying that he refused to “balance City Hall’s budget on the backs of homeowners and businesses,” David unveiled a $92.1 million budget that includes a proposed 0.25 percent residential tax decrease — the first residential tax decrease since 1998 — and a 0.84 percent commercial tax decrease.
“While this residential tax cut is slight, it’s a message to Binghamton homeowners that we’ve heard your cries for tax relief,” David said. The decline is 6 cents for each $1,000 in assessment.
For a home assessed at $80,000, taxes will decrease by $4.80 to $1,870.40.
The reduction in commercial taxes, now in a second consecutive year, is a sign that the city is open for business, David added.
Businesses will see a decrease of 36 cents in taxes per $1,000 of assessed value.
The 2016 budget totaled $90.4 million and included a 0.4 percent increase in residential taxes and a 0.01 percent decrease in commercial taxes.
Last year's commercial tax decrease marked the first time since 1999 that the city had decreased the commercial rate.
Despite the tax decreases, the 2017 budget proposes a $1.7 million increase in the city’s general fund expenses.
The city will also reduce debt by $700,000 under the proposed budget, and by the end of 2016, will have $17.5 million in its reserve funds. That’s nearly twice the amount the city had in 2014.
Decreased taxes and increased savings and spending will come in part from money saved on the city’s street lighting bill and increased revenue from upcoming parking kiosks, David said. Newly installed LED street lights trimmed the city's utility costs by about $400,000 a year, a 60 percent decline in the lighting costs.
Among the other revenues in the budget is a $1.8 million in Community Black Grant Funds.
On the expenditure side, roughly a quarter of the budget — $22.2 million — will go to public safety, which includes the city's police and fire departments. The city will also spend $6.7 million on employee pensions and $5.6 million on street reconstruction.
David received two standing ovations during the speech, and City Council members expressed support for the general numbers presented on Tuesday evening.
The less than one percent decreases in residential and commercial taxes may not seem like much, said City Councilman Conrad Taylor, D-4th District, but they send a clear sign that the city is interested in fostering business and attracting more residents.
"It's the first time that I've been on City Council where we've had a tax cut to both commercial and residential taxes," said City Council President Chris Papastrat, R-5th District. "It seems like (Mayor David) has gone through it with a fine-toothed comb."
City Council will have until Oct. 30 to make changes to the proposed budget, and Mayor David will have until Nov. 6 to veto any of those changes.
City Council then has until Nov. 20 to override a potential veto