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Issue Home September 13, 2006 Site Home

Letters to the Editor Policy

Face The Consequences

You have a real mess on your hands, and there's no one to blame but yourselves. You chose to pick a fight with the duly elected tax collectors. You cannot blame them for refusing to take an 80% cut in pay. (They are already the lowest paid tax collectors in the county.) Your own president admitted in the last meeting that if his pay were cut that much, he would quit his job.

The tax collectors were elected by your constituents to collect taxes for the boroughs, townships, county, and school district. They cannot lawfully pick and choose whose taxes they are going to collect. You, by your actions, forced them to seek remedy through the courts at much expense to themselves, to you, and ultimately, to the taxpayers.

The taxpayers should be aware that if your actions were taken to save the district money or to receive tax revenues quicker, then why did you create another administrative position, assistant business manager, with an increase in pay to collect taxes? Why have several of your board members not paid their 2005 taxes as of this date? (Public record.) Why did you spend $300,000.00 to install heated sidewalks to the entrance of the school building? (I bet there is not another building in the county with heated sidewalks.)

Actually, you are following a plan set forth by the Pennsylvania School Business Organization (PASBO) to motivate tax collectors out of office, thereby allowing you to collect your own taxes.

Your actions will result in costing taxpayers thousands of dollars in litigation, late collections, and reduced penalty collections, not to mention the anxiety and frustration you have caused the tax collectors.

There is a remedy to your actions: immediately overturn your decision to reduce collectors’ pay; give them the small increase that they requested last year (they will never recoup the expense that you forced on them); get legislation passed that will forever settle this issue and allow you to legally collect your own taxes.

Your actions on this issue are not becoming of an honest, forthright, reputable school board that represents all the people. In effect, you have acted more like the school yard bully.


Weldon Flewelling

New Milford, PA

The Board Is Misinformed

After meeting with two Blue Ridge School District Administrators August 22, it has become apparent to me that the Blue Ridge School Board has been ill advised.

Collecting taxes is more than opening mail and depositing checks. It is a labor- and time-intensive activity, required to provide revenues to the various taxing districts – your borough or township, your school district and your county. Your elected tax collector has the responsibility to collect, docket and disburse those taxes along with any additional taxes (called 511 taxes) as may be imposed by the various districts – such as per capita and occupation. They must update mailing addresses, provide lien certifications for mortgage companies, title searchers, attorneys and individuals. They must balance their reports and submit taxes monthly. They are constantly asked to provide multiple bills to various lien holders and other interested parties. They answer numerous phone inquiries. Finally, they are required to balance and return their delinquent taxes to the tax claim bureau in January of each year.

In speaking with one board member, I found the belief was that the Blue Ridge collectors were among the highest paid in the state. Considering they are the lowest paid in the county, I believe the board is being misinformed. The decisions that are being made by the board, as the announcement in the paper that your school taxes will not be delinquent until March, 2007, are ill conceived and not in conformance with law. Your taxes will be delinquent in January, 2007 depending on the postmarked date the bills are actually mailed out. The return date (the date delinquent taxes are due to the Tax Claim Bureau), by law, is January 15, 2007. Because the law requires that a taxpayer has 60 days from the date of mailing of the tax bill to pay at a discount and another 60 days to pay the face amount, if the bills are not mailed by September 16, 2006 the tax claim bureau will not be able to accept the delinquent school returns. Nor will the person attempting to collect the taxes have time to balance the return. That means the school may be forced to hire a third party collector or collect the delinquencies themselves; both options very expensive.

I oppose the move by the school district to try to intimidate and remove from office the person I elected to collect my taxes. The school district intends by reducing their compensation per bill from $3.00 to .60 (cents) to force the tax collectors to do one of two things:

Deputize the school as tax collector and only collect the county and township taxes, in which case the collector is still responsible for errors made by the deputized entity. (Would you want to take responsibility for someone else's work?) Speaking as a former auditor, I wonder where the internal control is if an entity is allowed to impose a tax, bill it, collect it and account for it.

Or resign, whereby the municipality would be responsible to appoint a tax collector to fill the vacancy.

Considering the number of properties that have had flood damage, I would hope to have experienced and knowledgeable tax collectors handling my money.

Please don't sit by and let a grave injustice happen. The work performed by our tax collectors is well worth the approximately $21,000 it cost the school district annually prior to the reduction to $.60. I know because I am the delinquent tax collector. I know the amount of work involved. I have been working with these six hardworking, dedicated collectors for years.

Don't forget, the school district waited until the midnight hour to inform the collectors that their new rate for their term would be $.60 (cents) and refused to meet with the collectors to work out any amicable resolution. And the reason the bills were not printed or mailed had absolutely nothing to do with the flooding. It had everything to do with the litigation over the reduction in pay and the fact that it is illegal for the school to "fire" our elected tax collectors in order to collect their own taxes.


Cathy Benedict

Susquehanna, PA

Give States More Authority

There is an old saying: “If you are not going to do anything, then do it right away!”

At a time when many dairy farmers claim they are facing the worst crisis of their farming career, one would think federal officials would be exploring all possibilities to help alleviate the dairymen’s plight. However, there doesn’t appear to be anything constructive being proposed in Washington, D.C. by elected or appointed officials.

At the same time, several states are scrambling in an attempt to aid the dairymen. Unfortunately, most of the states don’t have the authority to establish long-term pricing solutions for the dairy farmers, but at least they are trying.

The feds had a great opportunity to do something about the pricing situation under “Order Reform.” However, in my opinion, “Order Reform” was a “Processors’ Dream” and is currently turning into a nightmare for area dairy farmers. Even some milk processors are crying “uncle” under Order Reform.

So, isn’t it time we sit down and develop another way to establish the value of raw milk? Why should there be a new formula? You ask me why! Very simple. In Federal Milk Marketing Order #1 (Northeast), there are three classes of manufactured milk (yes, three).

For July, 2006, these three classes averaged $10.65 per cwt. That’s right - $10.65. Now is any sane person going to tell me this is a fair price for our dairy farmers? Incredible!

Conditions are so bad in New England that some state legislators are taking action. Vermont has appropriated over seven million dollars of taxpayer money to help dairy farmers with their plight. Other states are contemplating dong the same. What a calamity! Now we are using state money to subsidize the dairy industry! All of this is going on because the USDA did not develop a realistic pricing formula when they came up with their brilliant “Order Reform”!

And to make it worse, it appears that the majority of the members of the US Congress are unwilling (or the lack of guts) to take corrective measures.

Since January 1, 2006, I have had personal contact with at least 20,000 consumers (can anyone else say this?), and none of them can believe how the US Congress will allow these pricing inequities to continue, and they want some positive corrective measures taken!

In addition to the efforts being taken by some of the states, the Pennsylvania Milk Marketing Board (PMMB) continues to place a higher price on Class I milk (milk used for bottling), and this additional price is now over $2.00 per cwt (17 cents per gallon). Certainly the PMMB is the Granddaddy of all state initiatives in pricing milk. Unfortunately, the PMMB cannot price milk that leaves the state (oh, if only we had the Dairy Compacts). Now, Governor Rendell wants the PMMB to examine the possibility of pricing milk that leaves the state but re-enters Pennsylvania in fluid containers.

New Jersey is also now attempting to take constructive measures.

Not only do all of these states realize the damage that is being done to our dairy farmers, but these states also fully realize the deterioration that has taken place within the infrastructure of our rural economy.

It’s time and past time for the US Congress to intervene, and not with taxpayer money! Please don’t throw the Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) payments up to me as a solution to the pricing problems. For July, 2006, the federal MILC payment was 69 cents per cwt (5.9 cents per gallon). This payment represents only about 13% of the additional money needed by dairy farmers to keep pace with the July, 2004 milk price. The July, 2004 milk price was $17.64 per cwt. This means that July’s price in 2006 was $12.66, which shows that dairy farmers have been shortchanged by $5 per cwt!

The majority of the Northeast Congressional Delegation knows that something must be done and, in most cases, are willing to do something.

Let’s sit down and develop a new pricing formula bringing in the average cost of producing milk as a starting point.

Some say it can’t be done. I say, let’s examine the method by which it can be done. In developing a fair price for a gallon of milk in Pennsylvania, the PMMB takes into account the value of raw milk. In addition, through the hearing process, they have determined the complete cost that the fluid milk handlers have. Then they add something to the cost which allows a reasonable return to the processor.

Please don’t tell me we are split by regions. That regionalism that exists is mainly in Congress and not with our dairy farmers.

I’m calling on Congress to set the table. Dairy farmers across the US are willing to come and develop a new pricing formula.

And please don’t tell me events like the Senate Agriculture Committee hearing held in Washington, D.C. in July was representative of our average dairy farms.

The dairy farmers are ready to go! Now what about the members of Congress? If the members of Congress are not willing to take corrective action, then they should give the states the authority to join together to price milk.


Arden Tewksbury

Meshoppen, PA

Show Our Good Side

The Iraq War is another example of how the world sees our country. It is a shame the world knows us through our international companies. These companies just salivate as they go the world over to make money. Their greed so far is unquenchable. They are not the free enterprise that is needed in our great country. (Free enterprise starts locally.) While they make money hand over fist (literally) in Iraq, our brave soldiers are dying by the thousands, and innocent Iraqis are dying by the tens of thousands.

The world sees these mega-companies, with their army of lawyers, and doesn’t see us common people in the United States. The world’s people see greed coming from our country; they see products almost being forced on them.

It is time for us to get out of this war, and stop making our own enemies. Yes, there are threats out there, but our present hacks in government cow-tow to the almighty buck, and, they let the U.S. be defined by greedy entities. It is time to show the world the common U.S. citizen: a person who wants to live in freedom and loves liberty. Let’s show the rest of the world our citizens, not these immoral companies.

Not the President, not Congress, not some oversized corporation, but the common people need to take this country back, and show our good side to the world. It will take time to show the world this better side, but it is what is necessary.


Leif Winter

Hallstead, PA

Explain It To Them

Has anyone described the term “church and state” to the Muslim people? The explanation would maybe stop the wars.

“Church and state” lets the citizens of a country believe any way, in any faith and in anyone's God!

For God’s sake, let’s ask our President to explain the term to the world, quickly! It is up to us to make the calls to our president before we are up to our necks with a holy war!

My opinion is we, as Americans better stick together and be patriotic. Our government wants us to be aware of danger and to report anything out of the ordinary; it is time to tell them “church and state” allows the freedom of religion in a democracy. Maybe that term is the missing link.


Peter A. Seman

Thompson PA

Quick Action Is Needed

I am writing our state representatives to urge quick action and passage of House Bill 1773 – establishing the Department of Drug and Alcohol Services.

Research has clearly documented the link between addiction and crime. The establishment of Cabinet level leadership to address addiction issues will make a significant impact on one of the root causes of our ever-burgeoning crime problem.

House Bill 1773 will provide leadership and structure necessary to fulfill the vision and statutory authority already established by the legislature under Act 63, the Pennsylvania Drug and Alcohol Abuse Control Act.

Now more than ever we need leadership to stop the destruction that alcohol and other drug problems wreaks on our communities. Without leadership at the highest level of government we will continue to spend our resources on the consequences and never effectively address the cause. Our communities who struggle with crime and violence and our families who struggle with the loss of loved ones will continue to pay the price for this void in leadership.

Tremendous gain through passage of HB 1773 could be made with minimal costs as the staff and their operating costs already exist; it would simply be the cost of establishing leadership. Establishing a Secretary will ensure that our State Substance Abuse Agency is fully focused on its critical priorities and mission, is highly visible, and has the credibility and status needed to work as an equal with other Cabinet members.

As you are aware, funding resources are very limited and we are forced to ration or restrict treatment throughout the year despite the impact we know this has on crime and other issues (health costs, employment, child welfare, etc.). In these circumstances leadership is even more critical to insure effective planning as well as coordination across all agencies and again, I am asking for your support and quick action on House Bill 1773.


Robin Kaminski-Waldowski

Susquehanna Co. D & A

Program Administrator

Supporting Your Community

The United Way of Susquehanna County is once again asking for your support of the agency programs that serve our communities.

Changing lives, making a measurable difference - that is the focus of everything we do at the United Way of Susquehanna County. Does providing shelter and food to our neighbors in need matter to you? What about helping all children achieve success in life? Would you like to help older adults enjoy their lives with dignity? How about supporting our military families while their loved ones serve our country overseas? For these pressing needs and many others, United Way is the best way to bring people and resources together to create a stronger and healthier community.

This is your opportunity to help through a tax-deductible donation. No contribution is too small, and no contribution is too large. Your contribution is just right for you! “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” Theodore Roosevelt

Donations may be made by: payroll deduction (if provided by your employer); check payable to the United Way of Susquehanna County; credit card – Master Card or Visa. The United Way of Susquehanna County is located at 36 Lake Avenue, Montrose, PA 18801, (570) 278–3868.


Ruth Donnelly

United Way of Susquehanna County

The Fog Of War

Slowly the fog of war between Israel and Lebanon dissipates. What's revealed is a landscape littered with lies and half-truths, deceits and duplicities; and scattered with generous amounts of hokum and pure baloney. There's plenty of each to be found. Let's look at a glaring example of each.

A lie: Hezbollah started the war. Look at it this way. Moshe and Muhammad lived next to each other. Though distantly related, they were unwilling neighbors. To make matters worse, they had been in the habit of stealing chickens from each other for many years. One day, Moshe, as great a thief as his neighbor, decided to put an end to it.

In the dead of night, Moshe set his neighbor's house afire. Then he laid in wait to shoot the occupants as they ran from the blaze. But his anger burned even hotter than the flames. Hearing the fire engines approaching, he ran to meet them. When the firemen were but a little ways away from their destination, he shot out their tires.

Finally, both parties were brought into court. Moshe and Muhammad bickered furiously, each charging the other with starting the feud. The just judge, that's you, then had to decide who started the fracas. What is your decision; who started the war, Moshe or Muhammad?

A half-truth. During the month-long conflict the media constantly referred to the "rain" of Hezbollah rockets descending upon Israel, about 3,000 to 3,500 according to the Israel Defense Force. What's not mentioned is that the majority of these unguided munitions and their 50-pound payload fell harmlessly into the sea or onto vacant land. The remainder did little damage.

What is also omitted is Israel's "rain" over Lebanon. Israel fired and dropped tens of thousands of 155 mm cannon and 120 mm tank rounds, 150,000 aerial bombs, some weighing 2,000 pounds, and about 15,000 cluster bombs (CB) – all carefully aimed.

A CB is a munition that explodes midair, scattering scores of bomblets over a wide area, which are designed to explode on contact with the ground. CBs were delivered by aircraft, artillery shells, and rockets. They contained between 88 submunitions as in artillery shells, to as many as 644 bomblets in aerial bombs. Ordinarily, about 10% to 20% of these baseball-size bombs fail to explode. But since some of the CBs were manufactured in 1973, 40% is the expected dud rate.

However, the term "dud" is misleading. A sizable percentage of these duds are in effect antipersonnel mines. Some have a hair trigger, even a change of ambient temperature can be sufficient to detonate a bomblet.

Lebanon is blanketed with hundreds of thousands of these unexploded bomblets, plus a large number of other unexploded ordinances.

So where did the "rain" really fall? Israel or Lebanon?

Deceit. Both nations claimed to have one million displaced persons as a result of the conflict; perhaps true, but deceitful. A large numbers of Jews fled their homes for safety, either in temporary nearby bomb shelters, or semi-permanently to southern Israel.

On the other side of the border the situation was not comparable. Many did not have the means to escape their villages, or having the means chose to stay rather than be exposed to what they deemed to be a greater danger from strafing Israeli attack helicopters and fighter jets. For those who left, they faced a gauntlet of destroyed roads, downed bridges, and ruined gasoline stations.

One more difference. The Jews had homes to return to. The Arabs had neither homes nor villages to which they could return.

Duplicity. The fact that both sides suffered damage is often cited to establish a shared balance. But there is no balance. The U.N. estimated the damage done to Lebanon by Israel is $15 billion. The dollar value done to Israel's infrastructure is not reported. But a guesstimate based on what a few Katyusha rockets did to a train station, a few houses, and some cars would be less than $500,000. A lopsided proportion, $30,000 to $ l.

Hokum. The number of civilian fatalities will never be known with exactitude, they never are in war. But the Lebanese government reports 1,300 civilian deaths, with more being unearthed daily. Israel cites 118 deaths. The disparity is stocking, but even more so if the 118 figure is examined. That statistic is a composite number including soldiers (77) and civilians (41). Thus the proportion is more than 30 Arab deaths for one Jewish death.

And pure baloney. The President of Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is credited with the infamous quote, "Israel should be wiped off the surface of the earth." The phrase is permanently suffixed to his name. It is repeated ad nauseam to substantiate the claim that Iran is conducting a war on Israel by proxy. But it is a shameless manipulation of what was said and taken out of context to further the political ends of Israel and the United States.

The New York Times of October 30, 2005, printed the entire speech of President Ahmadinejad from which this quote is cited. Here is the crucial excerpt: "Our dear Imam said that the occupying regime must be wiped off the map and this was a very wise statement."

Notice that neither Iran's president nor the "dear Imam" (Ayatollah Khomeini), whom he quoted, ever demanded the elimination or annihilation of Israel. What Khomeini and Ahmadinejad referred to was a regime change. In context, the speech cited examples of positive governmental changes: the hated Shah Pahlavi (backed by the U.S. and Israel) and Saddam Hussein (backed by the U.S. in his war against Iran). He also noted the need for a governmental change in Israel. In no way did they suggest what would have amounted to a declaration of war against the state of Israel.

In time, the battered landscape of war will be rebuilt, the scars of war effaced, life will go on. But the lies we were told and all their variants will remain unreconstructed – just as they are to this day.


Bob Scroggins

New Milford, PA

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