After hearing from more than a dozen speakers and engaging in nearly a half hour of discussion, Chautauqua County Legislators approved the sale of the County Home. The proposal to sell the Dunkirk area facility to VestraCare for $16 million cleared by 13 to 5 vote. Jamestown Democrat Fred Larson cast what appeared to be the deciding vote. He views last November's elections as a "referendum" on the County Home. But, Sheridan Republican Terry Niebel didn't agree with Larson. While he believes the County Home will never break even, Niebel feels it’s worth keeping in County hands. Supporters of selling the County Home didn't know whether they had enough votes since Legislature Chairman Jay Gould was unable to attend the meeting because he was hospitalized. Gould had previously supported the sale. Larson apparently did not indicate to other legislators his position on the issue until last night's vote.
The state's new health exchange reports more than 800-thousand New Yorkers have completed applications for insurance while more than 501-thousand of them have now enrolled for specific coverage. The health department says enrollment for individual and family coverage since October includes 276-thousand-681 New Yorkers in the 16 commercial and nonprofit insurers in the exchange and more than 224-thousand in government-funded Medicaid. Open enrollments continue through March for 2014 coverage at state-approved rates. Applicants with incomes up to 400 percent of the federal poverty line are eligible for tax credits to help offset premium payments. Another online exchange offers insurance for businesses with up to 50 employees.
Members of the Jamestown School Board will get their first look at the district's tenative, 2014-2015 budget early next month. But... they're already bracing for bad news. Assistant Superintendent for Administration Dale Weatherlow told panel members Tuesday night that he's putting the finishing touches on a first draft of the spending plan... and, plans to present it March 11th. Weatherlow says unless there's a big boost in state aid there's going to be a shortfall. Superintendent Tim Mains calls the situation "very frustrating...." Mains says they're seeing increasing pension and health care costs... as well as increasing utility costs. He says the district has tried to offset those costs with increased efficiencies... but, adds there's only so much left to cut after deep cuts the past four years. Mains adds he's already been in contact with Assemblyman Andy Goodell and State Senator Cathy Young about more help for "high needs" districts like Jamestown. The "GEA" is the Gap Elimination Adjustment... which was first instituted in the 2009-2010 school year. It's the amount of aid New York state can take away... using a formula... from schools if there is a state budget deficit. Most districts have called on the state to eliminate the GEA... especially this year because Governor Cuomo is projecting a budget surplus in the coming year.
A new poll shows that most New York residents favor state-funded pre-kindergarten for all 4-year-olds, and are willing to pay higher taxes for it. But... New Yorkers are about evenly split on whether the new Common Core learning standards that have changed what students learn and when they learn it will help them after graduation. The Siena Research Institute conducted the poll last week and released results Tuesday. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percent. Results show 71 percent of respondents support using state tax dollars for universal pre-K, something Governor Andrew Cuomo has proposed, compared to 26 percent who are opposed. More than half -- 54 percent -- of people say they're willing to pay more taxes for pre-K, while 43 percent say no.
City lawmakers have accepted two grants from the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation to further the effort to complete the new Veteran's Memorial Park on Jamestown's westside. The City Council this week accepted the grants... which total 14-thousand dollars... during it's monthly voting session. Council Finance Committee Chairman Tony Dolce says the first grant was for 8-thousand dollars. Dolce says the other 6-thousand dollars is to replace the cannon that was part of the old Veteran's Park between East Second and Third Streets -- across from Jamestown High School. He adds the Community Foundation is continuing to accept donations for the new Veteran's Park. Dolce also says residents can help the community match a 20-thousand dollar challenge grant for the park from the Lenna Foundation. New contributions for the matching grant will be accepted by the Lenna Foundation through November 11th of this year. Dolce also says city lawmakers are pleased with the progress that's been made at the new park... which is located at Logan Park.