By JAMES CUMMINGS • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
SCHENEVUS – With $150,000 in state aid not coming through and a merger study still not guaranteed, the Schenevus Central school board voted unanimously on a resolution to begin talks with Worcester on “tuitioning out” middle and high school students.
“We started off the week with a very scary situation,” said District Treasurer Greg Beall. “The state did not give us $150,000 in aid. Fortunately, we received a $180,000 refund from BOCES and now we are funded for this year.”
And Theresa Carlin stressed that next year could be worse. “We don’t know if we’ll be able to function next year,” she said. “There is no indication that we will see additional state aid.”
With a merger study grant that isn’t guaranteed and a lengthy merging process, Carlin believes tuitioning-out may be the lifeboat that Schenevus needs.
“It’s so much more advantageous to merge, but this is a step towards that. It’s an opportunity to strengthen our financial situation,” said Carlin.
The school estimates that tuitioning-out could save them as much as $1 million, which they could use for future funding. Additionally, it would mean more options for the students.
“Our Pre-K through 5th grade students would stay here. We’d be able to enrich our elementary program and be able to offer an after-school program,” she said.
But not everyone felt that this was the right answer. Tom Snyder, a Schenevus firefighter, favored cuts and tax raises over tuitioning-out.
“I think the option should be left to the tax-payers. There are a lot of areas you could make cuts or adjustments to go along with a tax increase,” he said.“I believe that tuitioning-out is a quick and easy way out of the situation. If additional cuts were made and if it were possible to save the school long term, that would be my first choice.”
“If we wait until May and put out a large tax increase,” emphasized Carlin. “We can’t go backwards and tuition-out at that point.’
But merging, she said, can always be done after tuitioning-out.
“If we were to have a successful merger vote it will be in the next 14 months. You can’t tuition-out to yourself, so the contract would become null and void,” she said.
Dr. Jay Deitchman, a member of the board, encouraged Schenevus residents to be open minded.
“There are times when we find ourselves in places that we would prefer not to be, making decisions that we would prefer not to make. That is where we find ourselves today,” he said.
With the resolution passed, the next step is for Worcester to determine if tuitioning-out is a viable option for them.
“The first thing is that Worcester needs to make a decision about whether or not they can accommodate us,” said Carlin.
And with a shrinking student body at Worcester, the plan could work for both schools.
“Their trend is that they’re getting smaller,” said Schenevus School Board President Kelly Gallagher. “They expressed an interest in the idea to a greater extent than we did.”
“A lot of their classes have empty seats. It’s a double win,” said Carlin.
A vote is expected in January on whether or not tuitioning-out will take place for both schools. “It’s brand new for us. There aren’t a lot of school districts in the area that have done this,” said Carlin.