Sunday Opinion: Dissolving villages, merging school districts and reforming the Adirondack Park

Morning, folks.  Here’s a round-up of issues on the minds of opinion writers around the region.  The Plattsburgh Press-Republican argues that Keeseville — which straddles the Clinton-Essex county line — is right to consider dissolving the village.

Keeseville is being proactive by moving promptly on residents’ calls for a dissolution study. Rock affirms that the public will hold the reins in the end.

There are no sound reasons not to proceed with this study: The citizens and officials want to know the numbers, the grant money is available, and the final decision will rest where it belongs — with the people.

Meanwhile, the Glens Falls Post-Star is heralding a big school merger plan in Herkimer County, which the paper says could be a model for districts across the North Country.

The Frankfort-Schuyler, Herkimer, Ilion and Mohawk school districts – all located within 7 miles of each other – voted unanimously this week to put a proposed merger of the four school systems to a vote in each district. The vote is non-binding, but none of the boards were going to push forward until everyone was on board.

These are not tiny school districts, either.  The Franklin Schuyler district has more than 1,100 students, Ilion 1,800, Herkimer 1,200 and Mohawk 1,000.

The closest example in our region would be if Hudson Falls, Fort Ann and Fort Edward merged into a Route 4 colossus.  Any takers?

Meanwhile, the Adirondack Daily Enterprise argues that Albany should get out of the way and let counties raise sales taxes when local leaders see fit.

The state officials making this blanket decree do not know county finances better than the locals; nor are they trying to uphold any statewide standard.

Sales tax rates in New York are different in every county: The state takes its 4 percent, and county rates vary. Up here, Franklin County takes 4 percent while Essex takes 3.75.

Essex has been trying in recent years to raise its sales tax to 4 percent, but the state Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo are blocking that effort. Why?

Finally, the Adirondack Almanack published excerpts this week from an interesting opinion piece written by Adirondack Council leader Brian Houseal, who called for major reforms in the way state agencies manage the Park.

“The two main state agencies that protect the Adirondack Park’s forests and waters are the Adirondack Park Agency and Department of Environmental Conservation,” said Houseal. “Both were established in the early 1970s and have been operating the same way since that time. Over the past 40 years, it has become clear that some things aren’t working very well. We have presented the Governor with a plan for fixing those problems.”

“In general, we would like to see state agencies treat the Adirondack Park as a single entity by using the same set of rules and policies across the entire Park,” Houseal explained. “For example, the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) breaks the Park into two regions, with the regional office in Ray Brook overseeing the eastern two-thirds, while the Watertown office governs the western one-third of the Park, from a distance of 30 miles outside the Park’s border. The departments of Health, Transportation, Economic Development, also break the Park into multiple regions and regional directors.

“In most cases, we are proposing changes that the Governor has the authority to make on his own,” Houseal said. “Some others will require the assistance of the Legislature, either through new laws or with money.”

So there you go.  Plenty to chew on on this cold, bright North Country Sunday.  Comments welcome as always.


2 Comments on “Sunday Opinion: Dissolving villages, merging school districts and reforming the Adirondack Park”

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  1. Pete Klein says:

    The reason why the state Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo are blocking the effort by counties to raise their sales tax rates is they want to appear to be holding the line on taxes. Key word is “appear.”
    Those in Albany play a shell game when it comes to taxes and programs. They demand local governments and schools have this or that program, law, etc., shift the cost burden to localities, institute a property tax cap and do all this to win votes at the expense of the localities.
    If those in Albany had an ounce of responsibility, all mandates would be fully paid for with the state income tax or the mandates and the programs would be eliminated by the legislator and executive branch. But they run away from their responsibility and shift things to the localities, making local government and school boards the enemy of property tax payers.
    I’ll bet you would see a great willingness on the part of Albany to allow counties to raise their portion of the sales tax if it were a 50/50 deal. If 3, or 3 1/2 of 4 were the same for Albany as it is with the county, what do you think Albany would be in favor of?

  2. tootightmike says:

    Certainly there are towns that might reasonably consider dissolution. There are former logging towns, emptied out mining operations, and closed down industrial facilities, and yes, sometimes it makes no sense to be there anymore. There are little places with no jobs at all…where the entire workforce drives off every morning to where the jobs are, and drive off every weekend to shop where the stores are. It not only makes sense to dissolve these towns, but to discontinue the entire infrastructure. If the place is done, then let it go.
    There are however other places that are considering this question that should be using their energy and resource to build up, make better , and streamline to achieve a sustainable future. Long discussions can be an energy sink…dissipating the time and imaginations of the participants. Things change, that’s always true, and getting stuck in the past serves no one, but we are not all moving in a downward direction.
    Towns (like Potsdam) need to resolve to imagine, to create, and to produce…their future. Waiting for an investment to pay off won’t do. We need to move forward, leading into the future instead of being dragged.

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