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Two takes on taxes

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Western New York is dishing up some of the nation's highest property taxes.

The Buffalo News has a trio of stories about property taxes. Brian Meyer has details on a report from the Tax Foundation.

Erie, Niagara and Chautauqua counties had the dubious distinction of appearing on the list of the top 10 counties with the highest median real estate taxes as a percentage of home value. The analysis reviewed 792 counties with populations of at least 65,000 people.

Jill Terreri at the Democrat and Chronicle has the Rochester perspective on the same report.

Two small communities in Erie County, Cuba and Farnham, have rejected proposals that would dissolve their villages and fold them into larger municipalities. Consolidation has been promoted by politicians like Andrew Cuomo as a way to consolidate services and cut down tax bills - but so far few consolidation votes have been successful.

Elsewhere in Erie County, the county executive, Chris Collins is chopping funding for cultural organizations. Collins plans to constrain county spending to only what he considers the most attractive cultural destinations, like the Albright-Knox and Buffalo zoo. The budget trimming is necessary, according to Collins, because of fading stimulus money and flat property values.

Anatomy of a grant
The Times-Union shows how one federal grant has trickled through the community of Watervliet.

Child poverty
The Democrat and Chronicle takes a look at child poverty data from the census. The rate has climbed over the previous year, putting nearly half of the city's kids below the poverty line.

Getting the power
More than 100 businesses are tapping into cheap hydropower, 2 with contracts as long as 15 years (GM and Steuben Foods). The head of New York's power authority tells the Buffalo News that the companies that are getting the deals are "central to Western New York's economy." The contracts still have to be approved by the governor. Innovation Trail's Daniel Robison has previously reported about how these incentives work.

High tech teach
The Post-Standard reports that students at a high school outside Syracuse are stepping up to teach their teachers how to use technologies like the educational software Blackboard and electronic whiteboards.

One teacher who won't be needing any help with tech is Michal Lipson. She's just gotten a MacArthur Foundation "genius" award for her work with optics. From the Post-Standard:

Lipson, 40, said she plans to use the “genius” money for research involving “bending” light around tiny objects, effectively making them invisible. “It would make some objects completely transparent, because if light doesn’t interact with the object, you would not see it,” she said. “There’s a whole slew of opportunities once you know how to handle light.”

High speed rail en route
Governor Paterson has cleared $42 million for nearly three dozen rail and port projects. The Post-Standard has the details on the central New York projects. The Buffalo News has the lead on the western New York projects.

Shale tax and attacks
AP reports that legislation to tax natural gas drilling proceeds has passed the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. The bill would split revenue on a 39-cents-per-1,000-cubic-feet 60/40 with environmental projects and the state's general fund.  It still has to clear the senate, which will likely change it.

Meanwhile residents in Dryden, outside Binghamton, are concerned about how frequently potential impacts of gas drilling are listed as "not known" on an application for drilling. The Press & Sun-Bulletin has the details.

Also in Pennsylvania, according to the Press & Sun: a lawsuit is brewing. The state Department of Environmental Protection's secretary says "it looks like we're going to be in litigation" with gas driller Cabot, which has been charged with contaminating wells.

on the block

AOL is planning to buy TechCrunch, one of Innovation Trail's favorite resources for tech industry news. The New York Times reports the idea is to bolster AOL's reputation as a "hub for online news." Keyword: good luck.

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