THE VIEW FROM WEST DAVENPORT
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.”
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.