Express News Staff
INDIAN LAKE - Imagine how quiet Hamilton County would become if no one lived here.
This is what Lake Pleasant Central School District Superintendent Ernest Virgil imagined during a recent meeting of local school superintendents, school board presidents and town supervisors at Indian Lake Central School.
“It’s going to be a very quiet ride through Hamilton County if our schools close, because parents won’t want to live here if their kids have to be on a bus two to four hours every day,” Virgil said.
The meeting was called to discuss shared services, but the focus changed to survival when Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Executive Budget for 2013/14 was released earlier in the week. It shows state aid to schools going down.
LPCSD would take the biggest dollar hit, going down $137,400 or 25.7 percent, from $534,366 for 2012/13 to $396,966 for 2013/14.
Long Lake Central School District would take the biggest hit by percentage, going down $107,320 or 26.6 percent, from $404,000 to $297,000.
ILCSD’s state aid would go down $67,386 or 10.9 percent, from $618,468 to $551,082.
Wells Central School District’s state aid would change the least, going down just $7,375 or .77 percent from $956,643 to $949,268.
ILCSD Superintendent Mark Brand said, “I was shocked when I saw the numbers. What programs do we have to lose to stay under the [tax] cap? Sports? Music? Art?
“We can’t continue to absorb the loss of state aid. I’ve written letters to [Senator Hugh] Farley and [Assemblyman Marc] Butler asking why the cuts plus asking for mandate relief but haven’t heard from either of them.”
NYS IN THE WAY
Speaking of mandates, Tracy Eldridge remembered when the building project was started, while he was president of the BOE, with the goal of having a generator that would power the school.
However, the building project triggered a demand by the state Education Department that the building be made handicapped accessible, which resulted in electrical upgrades, which resulted in finding asbestos that had to be removed. The end result was no money for a generator.
There was general agreement that elected state representatives are blind to the realities of living in the Adirondacks.
Town of Lake Pleasant Supervisor Neil McGovern said, “We have to do a better job of explaining our unique hardships. Also, we have to impress the voters that if we lose our schools people will move out and no one will move in.”
Hamilton County Board of Supervisors Chairman William Farber agreed. “We have to be more effective in communicating to both the state and our residents how important it is to keep our schools. We have to do this together and advocate as a block.”
Everyone agreed full- and part-time residents alike, as well as visitors, should write and call their representatives in Albany to demand action to save the county’s schools.
“We need to be the squeaky wheel,” Brand said.