River Valley Auto assists Rockford Lions

SET IT DOWN RIGHT THERE BOYS!—Mike Bouwkamp assists in positioning a shed for use by the Market Master during Rockford’s Farm Market.

SET IT DOWN RIGHT THERE BOYS!—Mike Bouwkamp assists in positioning a shed for use by the Market Master during Rockford’s Farm Market.

by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL

In future weeks, visitors to the Rockford Farm Market will find a Rockford Lions donated shed smack dab in the center of the popular Saturday morning marketplace. The shed will serve as headquarters for the Market Master as he oversees the Market’s vendors and morning’s activities.

Head Market Master Bob Winegar, on behalf of the Rockford Lions Club, said, “We couldn’t have managed this move without the generous support of River Valley Auto. Owner Dan Williams sent two of his vehicles, one a specialized flat-bed truck, to transport the shed to the site and assist in lowering it into place. With the patience and skill of the two tow-truck drivers, Ryan Nielsen and John Frazine, the difficult task went off without a hitch.”

Rockford Public Services Director Mike Bouwkamp was also on hand Tuesday morning to lend his expertise and the use of a City front-loader.

As the Squire reported in their story of this season’s Market opening, the Lions will vend fresh and hot popcorn from an authentic popcorn machine. Proceeds of popcorn sales will go towards various Lions Club charitable service projects. Stop by Saturday morning to admire the Market Master headquarters and get yourself a bag of good old-fashioned popcorn.

River Valley was also a good neighbor to the Squire the week of Start of Summer Celebration. We forgot to bring a tarp to cover our beautiful float. With rain in the night’s forcast, River Vally kindly let us store our float safely in their garage. Thanks, guys.

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Birthdays, June 27-July 3

27th  Len Carpenter   •   Andy Havemeier   •   Charles Traxler

29th  Megan Blakely    •   Frank Nelson   •   Roberta Shripka   •   Shelia Tidey

30th  Mark Blakeslee   •   Fred VandenBoogert   •   Sue Wobma

JULY

 1st     Sonia Andrews   •   Jean Karloski

 2nd   Kerri TenBrink

 3rd    Maggie Chipman   •   Kristine Stotz   •   Henery VandenHeuvel

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Main Street by Roger Allen — June 25, 2009

Roger Allen, publisher.

Roger Allen, publisher.

Big worry, short fingernails

A lot of people worry about the national budget deficit. The idea of the government spending borrowed money goes against the grain. But, on a personal scale, we Americans did the same thing with our unrestrained credit card binge and mortgages we couldn’t afford. Let’s not get all moral about the national budget deficit.

But the deficit problem is real and the facts aren’t simple. President Clinton was relatively frugal, so George W. Bush inherited a small surplus. Then, under the Bush administration, Congress actually reduced taxes (with most reductions going to the already wealthy) while embarking on two wars. This combo of lowering taxes during war had never been done before. (Wonder why.) The result was a gigantic budget deficit made to seem only huge-because (holy moley!) the Bush folks didn’t include the costs of the two wars in their budget numbers.

President Obama inherited a uniquely ghastly fiscal fiasco; he and his team of advisers, including the respected Warren Buffet, decided on the stimulus package to try to fend off a total meltdown. We’re printing money like crazy and selling bonds to foreign governments to back it up. No wonder we Americans are biting our fingernails down to the first knuckle.

On the other hand, we Americans are still buying loads of stuff from China and putting it on our bill. Way to go, Wal-Mart! Bet the Chinese are laughing all the way to the bank.

Ye gods. What happens if we can’t pay those bonds when they come due? Do the Chinese get to foreclose on us? Are we going bankrupt? I can see where the Feds might have to sign over Boulder Dam to the Chinese to help cover our debts. And how about Connecticut? Will the Chinese demand ownership of some small state to cancel our debt?

I think about these things as I nibble away at
my fingernails.

Momentary worry

A guy goes to the supermarket and notices an attractive woman waving at him. She says hello. He’s rather taken aback because she looks familiar but he can’t place where he knows her from.

So he says, “Do you know me?”

She replies, “I think you’re the father of one of
my kids.”

Now his mind travels back in time.

“My God,” he says, “are you the stripper from my bachelor party?”

She looks into his eyes and says calmly, “No, I’m your son’s teacher.”

Not to worry #1

An exasperated mother, whose son was always getting into mischief, finally asked him, “How do you expect to get into heaven?”

The boy thought it over a minute and then said, “Well, I’ll run in and out and keep slamming the door until St. Peter says, “For heavens sake, Dylan, come in or stay out!”

Not to worry #2

Notice: No animals were mistreated in the preparation of this column.

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Tax Attic — June 25, 2009

Jerry Coon, Enrolled Agent

Jerry Coon, Enrolled Agent

How are Social Security benefits

calculated?

The catching of fish in Canada was not quite as good this year as other years. The black flies and mosquitoes were not a problem, though. I guess they don’t like 50 degree and rainy weather either. However, the fishing was as good as ever.

As those of us who fish know, catching fish is only a small part of the whole story. I go to Canada fishing for walleye almost every year. I go with fellows whom I have been friends with for more than 30 years now. Around the campfire, along with a beer or two, we get to laugh about the stories of the trips we took over those 30-plus years.

Some of those stories are actually true and not embellished too much, like the time we almost ran over a moose between White River and Wawa. Scary, but I swerved right around him and we kept on going.

Another time, we hit a rock in the river and I flew out of the boat so fast I didn’t have time to even say “Ro……” before I hit the water. I lost my sunglasses but held onto my coffee cup and hat. They were good sunglasses too. I saw that rock quite clearly.

Yet another time, we were driving down the two-track to the boat launch and looked over to see a big black bear nonchalantly walking back toward our camp on the two-track going in the opposite direction. I don’t know, but I think he knew we weren’t going to be there to defend our property.

One time we bet one of the guys that he couldn’t leave the campfire, jump into the boat, go out into the lake, catch a fish and get back to his seat at the campfire within five minutes. He won the bet, too, with a nice pike. It’s just as impressive to me today as I write this as it was seeing him do it.

Another time, a mink figured out how to open the latch on our minnow buckets and eat all of our minnows. Smart-aleck little fellow, but it was probably quite a feast for him. He ate probably $20 worth of minnows before we got smart enough to put snap catches on our buckets. He never did figure out how to get those snap catches open, either.

Once we saw a loon go under and come up with at least a 20-inch walleye in its mouth. It took him about five minutes to eat that walleye, but eat it he did.

It is indeed fun going fishing and camping with guys you are comfortable with. I’m very grateful I have those guys that I call friends.

I would like to continue discussing our Social Security system and how benefits are calculated. To earn regular Social Security benefits, a taxpayer needs 40 credits. For 2009, one credit is earned for each $1,090 of earnings. Once the taxpayer earns $4,360, he has earned the maximum of four credits that can be earned for 2009. In effect, 40 credits is equal to 10 years worth of earnings.

           For a taxpayer who turns age 62 in 2009, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will review the earnings of the taxpayer in all of the years basically from birth until he turned age 62. To somewhat level the playing field, earnings in the years from birth until the age of 60 are indexed for inflation. Following is an example provided by the SSA of how indexing works.

A taxpayer earned $978 in 1965 when he was 18. The magic of indexing turns this $978 into indexed adjusted earnings of $8,482. In 1975, this taxpayer earned $14,100. Indexing turns this into earnings of $66,008. In 1985, he earned $31,589. Indexing turns this figure into earnings of $75,872. In 2005, $64,999 turns into $71,071.

Indexing is attempting to provide a current value of career earnings. The highest 35 of indexed adjusted earnings years are then added together and divided by 420, which is the number of months in 35 years. Dividing by 420 provides the taxpayer’s Average Indexed Monthly Earnings (AIME). This AIME figure is then used to calculate the taxpayer’s monthly retirement benefit.

For example, a taxpayer’s AIME is $6,000. The first $744 is multiplied by 90%. This equals $669.60. The next $3,739 is multiplied by 32%. This equals $1,196.48. The next $1,517 is multiplied by 15%. This equals $227.55. These three figures, $669.60, $1,196.48 and $227.55, are added together to get a total of $2,093.63. This is rounded down to $2,093. That is the taxpayer’s benefit at full retirement age of 66.

If the taxpayer chooses to begin drawing at age 62, multiply the $2,093 times 75% to get the reduced benefit available to the taxpayer today. That figure is $1,569.

The SSA has an online estimator that can be found at www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator. It’s quite easy to use if you are interested in finding out how much your potential benefit may be. This is Jerry Coon signing off.

Jerry Coon is an Enrolled Agent. He owns
Action Tax Service on Northland Drive in Rockford.
His e-mail address is jcoon@actiontaxservice.com.

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School Beat — June 25, 2009

Addressing teens’ cell phone use

by DAN WARREN, Principal East Rockford Middle School

We have arrived at a place in our lives where we are instantly connected to each other through technology. It only takes a few seconds for us to connect for a conversation with just about anyone in just about any place in the world. We are communicating through personal technology at a rate so fast that when new information actually arrives to most of the general public, it’s already old news.

Not only are we easily and quickly connected to others, our technology also allows us to gather information on any topic within seconds of pushing a few buttons. Want to find out a play-by-play analysis of your favorite professional sports team? Just dial it up. Or, maybe if you have the appropriate system, you could watch it live in the palm of your hand.

Arguably, the cell phone is the personal electronic device that has revolutionized our ability to easily communicate with the world. Some of us remember the days when only physicians had pagers or the bulkiness of the first mobile phones. Today, a cell phone the size of a business card is all you need to run an international business. Personal technology devices that allow us instant communication and the ability to gather information are all probably very good for us and most likely unavoidable in today’s “need to know and do” society. And I am sure these devices will become even more efficient over time and certainly increase in popularity with each citizen.

Allowing students to have cell phones in school is a challenging dilemma for both educators and parents. Aside from the obvious disruption cell phone use presents in public, how do we maintain normalcy in the instructional day, while knowing that a student is in possession of a communication tool that could easily be used for various inappropriate means? There have been many court cases involving student improper use of cell phones in school settings, most involving cyber bullying and transmitting unacceptable content. Obviously, this adds another layer of student behavior schools and parents have to manage. At some point in the future, maybe the cell phone will serve as a student’s personal computer that connects seamlessly with instruction. However, schools are not at this level of technology integration, yet.

It’s easy to conclude that maybe schools should not allow students to have cell phones on campus. Or some could contend that allowing your teen to have a cell phone is questionable parenting. However, national research indicates that parents desire the convenience of having the connection with their teen that cell phones provide. There is safety in knowing your teen can quickly connect with you if necessary. Certainly teenagers are more than capable of understanding and following proper cell phone use procedures.

As with many changes in our evolving culture, schools have created policies to address cell phone possession and use by students. These policies are designed to allow students to possess personal cell phones, while also protecting the rights of others and honoring the school’s instructional process. Like most schools, Rockford’s cell phone policy does not allow students to use cell phones during the instructional day. However, they are allowed to have a cell phone at school.

How do parents and educators address this whole cell phone issue with teens? We have a big challenge, according to most studies regarding teens and cell phones. Adolescents represent an important demographic for cell phone makers, as cell phones have become an integral part of teens’ lives. In a recent Neilson survey, about four out of every five teens carry a cell phone. This is up from 40 percent of teens owning a cell phone in 2004. Approximately 50 percent of teens today say that having a cell phone is “key” to their social lives. According to Nielsen, kids are getting cell phones even before they hit their teens. Nearly half of kids aged 8 to 12 years own cell phones in the U.S. On average, kids get their first cell phone between the ages of 10 and 11 years. The next time a teenager says, “Mom, if I don’t have a phone, I am going to be a nobody,” they are being serious.

So, what impact does the cell phone have on teen behavior? According to Nielsen, the cell phone has become a primary mode of socializing for teens and they will often avoid contact with peers who don’t have cell phones. Teens often express an attitude that “if you are not a name or number on my phone book, then you are not on my social radar screen.”

Teens also believe that they can gauge a peer’s popularity or status by the phone he or she uses. It’s not uncommon for a teen to be embarrassed for his friends to see his phone if it’s not “teched up” enough. Consistent with the findings of the Nielsen survey, teens text message as much as or more than they talk on the phone. Almost 50 percent of teens say they could text blindfolded.

Teenagers can get so immersed in the use of their technology that they often see little difference between meeting face-to-face and talking on the phone. A common scene often observed is a group of teenagers sitting together at a mall, all with ears glued to cell phones, while talking with faraway friends rather than to each other. This “social” interaction has created a new kind of “digital divide” among teenagers in which they are hanging out, but not really communicating face-to-face. For teens, this behavior is completely normal and acceptable. It does appear that the cell phone has now presented teens with yet another social challenge, as if they do not have enough existing on their already full self-esteem plate.

Not only are we adults presented with challenges to teach our children how to properly and safely use their cell phone, we are also caught up in trying to understand the social issues associated with the cell phone. I have certainly witnessed this “digital divide” as there is nothing more annoying than trying to talk with a teenager when you have to compete with an electronic device, which is obviously more important to the teen than my wisdom. Whatever happened to the days in which we sent our kids off with a dime for the pay phone? Or when an actual conversation occurred in the car on a trip to visit grandma?

However, let’s be fair to our teens and keep this whole cell phone issue in perspective. Adults, like teens, also find themselves tied to their cell phones. Adults are just as guilty as their teenage kids of accepting cell phone calls during dinner or excusing themselves from a conversation or meeting to take a call on their mobile phone.

The huge majority of school-age teens use cell phones for their intended purposes and respect rules associated with proper use. We have to trust that teens will not “poke their eyes out” with their cell phones.

Nevertheless, schools must have a policy to address cell phone use. Both parents and educators must continue instructing teens to adhere to the specific behaviors necessary to reflect responsible cell phone use. Listed below is Rockford Public Schools’ student cell phone use policy. This policy is designed to inform both students and parents that cellular phones must not disrupt the school day. All student cellular devices must be off during the instructional day starting at 7:40 a.m. and ending at 2:30 p.m. The policy is as follows:

  • First Offense:  cellular device will be confiscated and returned to student after 2:30 p.m. Parent called by teacher (if cellular device is on in class) or administrator (if cellular phone is on outside of class).
  • Second Offense:  after-school detention; cellular device will be returned after assigned detention is served. Parent contacted by administration to discuss consequences if a third offense should occur.
  • Third Offense:  one-day suspension. Parent conference with student and administrator before cellular device will be returned to the parent.
  • Fourth Offense:  three-day suspension. Parent informed, student will not be permitted to bring cellular device into the building. Parent conference with administrator before cellular phone returned to parent.

 

 


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