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Schenevus Central School

The Haves And The Have Nots

COLUMN

THE VIEW FROM WEST DAVENPORT

The Haves And

The Have Nots

Possibly the most important outcome of the recent meeting to discuss the future of the Schenevus Central School District is a quote from the superintendent: “The District’s revenues are inflexible.”  She went on to say, “the District does not have property wealth or the income wealth to raise taxes enough to cover the deficit.”

Mike Zagata, DEC commissioner in the Pataki Administration and a former environmental executive for Fortune 500 companies, lives in West Davenport.

Finally someone in a position of authority has admitted the truth!  We live in Appalachia and Upstate New York is in a death spiral.  Ironically, Schenevus is where the first gas well to be fracked is located.  Would that have made a difference to the school district if it had been allowed to go forward?  We’ll never get to find out, but fracked gas has undeniably made a positive economic difference in Pennsylvania.  That we do know.

As it started snowing, I thought about the claims of those who protested the use of fracking on the grounds they wanted to protect the surface and ground water.  You might be wondering what snow has to do with protecting our water sources.

It’s really quite simple.  As soon as a snow flake falls, those same people clamor to have the roads salted.   Thousands of tons of salt are spread on our roads each winter and that salt ends up contaminating our rivers, lakes, streams and groundwater – yet you don’t hear a peep about it from the folks who shouted down fracking.

Why is that?  Maybe it’s because they don’t have to make a living here like the 30 percent of our population that’s below the poverty line.  Maybe it’s because they don’t care if our young people have to leave to find work.  Maybe it’s because they don’t care if Upstate New York is losing its population at an alarming rate.

If you doubt that, look at the number of students who graduate from Oneonta High School – less than half the number that graduated in the 1960s.  The same is true for Laurens, Morris, Jefferson, Worcester, Franklin, Treadwell, etc.

The smaller schools are facing the need to merge which means a loss of identity and jobs – something we can’t afford to have happen.  It has to go that way as the schools’ enrollments are too small to offer a diverse education and their tax base is declining. Those of us who choose to stay face, in order to maintain the current level of government “services,” an increase in our taxes every time one of our neighbors decides to leave New York.

As the superintendent from Schenevus so eloquently said – we simply can’t afford not to merge some of our schools.  (A paraphrase.)

Look at what’s happening to the towns within the New York City watershed.  The city has bought up about 90 percent of the developable property within the towns.  Thus those towns have very little opportunity to grow their tax base while at the same time they are facing a 2 percent tax cap and a 3 percent cost-of-living increase.

They are in an economic vise with no way to escape.  Why – because New York City will do, and has done, anything to avoid the need to filter its water.  Meanwhile, the deer and beaver keep pooping in the woods.

Our area needs a source, or sources, of reliable energy now – energy that can be tapped when and where it is needed.  We simply can’t afford to wait until technology catches up with our current need.

Natural gas is a reliable bridge that will allow us to start reversing the downward economic trend now before the downward spiral is irreversible.  That doesn’t mean we don’t care about our planet – we do.  We also realize that it takes prosperity to have the free time and available capital to protect our environment.  Protecting our environment isn’t a priority for the lesser-developed countries – survival is.

Fossil fuels are non-renewable and thus we’re going to run out of them.  One would have to be a fool not to recognize that and begin now to take the steps necessary to have reliable energy available when we run out of fossil fuels.

We can’t just flip a switch and make that happen – just as we can’t flip a switch and have solar energy available 365 days a year – at least not in Otsego County.

 

At Meeting, Schenevus Superintendent Urges Merger

SCHENEVUS CS AT CROSSROADS

At Packed Meeting,

Superintendent Says

Merger Is Best Option

Schenevus Superintendent Theresa Carlin presented three options – merging, tuition-out or dissolving – for the future of the school district tonight at a public meeting in the school’s gymnasium. (James Cummings/AllOTSEGO.com)

By JAMES CUMMINGS • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Hugh Gallagher’s three children attended Schenevus Central, and he stood up to support of merging with Worcester Central to get more state aid for both schools.

SCHENEVUS — With time and money running out, Schenevus Central School Superintendent Theresa Carlin gave parents three options for their district: Dissolve, tuition-out or merge.

“We cannot sustain ourselves as a K-12 district much longer,” she said at a presentation in the school gymnasium tonight. “Our number one solution is to merge with another district.

But families who came out to the meeting were divided on which of those three choices to make.

Doug Gulotty, a Schenevus resident and former Wilber Bank president who spent 17 years as a board member and whose wife teaches at the school, favors tuitioning-out. “The identity of the school matters,” Gulotty said. “I want everyone to keep an open mind.”

Schenevus, Worcester Schools Plan Forum On Possible Merger

Schenevus, Worcester

Schools Plan Forum

On Possible Merger

By JAMES CUMMINGS • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

SCHENEVUS – With its deficit heading toward $750,000, the Schenevus Central School has reopened merger talks with neighboring Worcester Central.

A forum entitled “The Future of Schenevus” is planned at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 6, in the school gym.

“Please join us for an evening of forward-thinking collaboration and gaining an understanding of what we need to do to maintain an institution that provides all students with a quality education,” the promotional information reads.

State Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, Assemblyman Brian Miller, R-New Hartford, state Education Department representatives, Superintendent Theresa Carlin and District Treasurer Greg Beall will serve on a panel.

There a number of reasons for the financial bind, said Carlin, ranging from rising insurance costs and some poor decision making in the past.

And state aid is lagging.  “We’re getting the money we would’ve gotten 10 years ago,” Carlin said.

In June, special legislation sponsored by Seward and Miller allowed Schenevus Central to borrow $500,000 against future state aid.

But it hasn’t been enough.

At least six staff positions have been dissolved, meaning that teachers are being asked to do more, including teaching classes that they hadn’t previously, Carlin said. Additionally, there are fewer electives available for students, fewer field trips, and less new equipment.

The idea of a potential merger was first raised in June, when Schenevus and Worcester school board members attended a presentation by education consultant Alan Pole, in which he explained how the merger process works.

Next, Carlin said, a $50,000 merger study must be completed by both districts to determine if a jointure is viable.  Both districts have applied for a New York State Department grant to cover the cost.

If the grant is awarded in January, the two schools districts will share any additional costs.

The districts have undergone a merger study in the past, but in 1996 chose not to follow through with it. Several years ago the two districts also applied for grant funding for another study, but did not receive it.

When asked about the potential merger, Carlin expressed enthusiasm, at the possibility of “more classes, more electives, and the sports teams would be amazing”.

She said there is already camaraderie among the students: “Schenevus kids are already involved with Worcester kids.” Separated by only five miles, the schools already share a track team.

It’s the adults who might have to be convinced.

“There is a natural resistance to change,” says Tim Gonzales, Worcester Central School superintendent, “an emotional piece you can’t control.”

Should a merger take place, some may think “the community is not what it once was.”

Gonzales said he favors the merger, if the study supports the idea. “We want what’s best for the kids; my intent is to share as much as we can,” he said.

If all goes well, the merger study would begin in February and last nine months.  Merger itself could take as long as two years, as both school boards and both communities would have to vote on the idea.

Legislation To Let Schenevus Borrow On Future Approved

Legislation To Let

Schenevus Borrow

On Future Aid OK’d

If Governor Signs It, School District

Can Close Up To $500K Gap Next Year

The art deco Schenevus Central School building dates back to the 1930s.
Assemblyman Brian Miller announced legislative approval of the aid package.

SCHENEVUS – Legislation allowing Schenevus Central School to stabilize its shortterm finances by borrowing against future state aid has passed the Assembly Assemblyman Brian Miller, R-New Hartford, who represents the Otsego County community, announced today.

Miller said he worked with state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, and Supt. of Schools Theresa Carlin on the package, which, in addition to advancing state aid, will help the 360-student school district develop a plan for longterm financial solvency.

“Considering the financial condition of our district, any help we are able to get at this point is a welcome,” said Mrs. Carlin.

State Comptroller: Schenevus Central Under Fiscal Stress

State Comptroller:

Schenevus Central

Under Fiscal Stress

Schenevus Central School is one of only five school districts in New York State that are under “significant fiscal stress,” state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli said in a report released over the weekend. No other Otsego School fell into that category, or in the “susceptible to fiscal stress” category.  Fewer of the state’s public schools are in financial stress than in past years, DiNapoli’s report found.

CLICK HERE TO READ DINAPOLI’S REPORT

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