Are we budget cutting our North Country schools to death?

Photo: KB35 creative commons, some rights reserved

Heading for a dead end? Photo: KB35 creative commons, some rights reserved

On Tuesday, we New Yorkers will vote on the future of our education system — the future, that is, measured in a 12-month chunk.

The reality, though, is that we’re in the middle of a cycle that’s much larger than 12 months. For decades, our North Country schools have been shedding kids, with lower and lower enrollment counts. Since the Great Recession, we’ve also been shedding dollars and staff and programs.  Check out my conversation with Martha Foley for a lot of the context.

The question, really, is where this is all leading.

Schools have long been the lifeblood of our region’s communities, shaping much of the local spirit and identity, providing many of the best jobs. They also do the important work of nurturing and preparing our children. So what happens if this enterprise literally goes bankrupt?  What happens if we can’t afford to keep the doors open or the lights on?  Or, more concretely, what happens if we whittle away program after program until the schools are hollow?

These aren’t pure hypotheticals.

More and more mainline educators say the 2% property tax cap, the flatline regional economy, and flat or dropping state aid are pushing schools into a death spiral. Governor Andrew Cuomo has essentially argued that local districts have to live within their means and find creative ways to make this all work. But my sense is that a lot of districts in our region aren’t crying wolf.  They’re out of ideas, out of money, and almost out of time.

So what do you think?  Short of giving schools a blank check, is there a way to make our rural and hyper-rural districts sustainable?

And what are you seeing now in your district?  If you’re a teacher, is the experience you’re providing still a good one?  If you’re a parent, what do you think of the education your child is receiving?

Comments welcome below and don’t forget to vote tomorrow.


71 Comments on “Are we budget cutting our North Country schools to death?”

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  1. Mervel says:

    I do believe that simply responding to each year’s fiscal crisis by a slow death of cost cutting and layoffs combined with tax increases; is not the solution. Not one official seems to be able to say well if we cut this and we increase taxes this amount, we will have enough. The answer seems to be it will never be enough, costs are never going down and taxes are always going to go up. This is not a viable answer. We need to step back and have a sustainable plan; what we can keep what we can’t keep and really focus on what we want to keep and make that stronger, it means systemic change.

  2. Dave says:

    In very basic terms… can someone explain to me why the budgets keep going up (or staying the same), when enrollment keeps going down?

    This is the part of the story that doesn’t compute with me. One would think with less kids to educate, we’d be able to spend less money on education without it causing all sorts of alarms and problems.

  3. The Original Larry says:

    The reason it doesn’t compute, Dave, is that after years and years of a “blank check” mentality any kind of substantial cut looks like the end of the world and is met with howls of outrage – even if it makes sense. Those who make their living off of other people’s taxes never want to give an inch.

  4. Brian Mann says:

    Dave –

    It does appear that a lot of school districts failed to keep up (or keep down rather) with enrollment declines. So there was excess teaching capacity in some districts.

    But most districts tell us that that fat was cut out of the system several budget cutting cycles ago. Many districts have cut 1/4 to 1/3 of their staff over the last several years. That’s huge.

    Unfortunately, fixed costs that include pensions, health care, fuel for heating and buses, and maintenance continue to go up.

    Also, it’s tough for districts to continue to hold teachers’ salaries flat three and even four years after the crisis began.

    Finally, many districts say that even with smaller enrollments they can’t cut more teachers in hyper rural areas because in many cases there is just one teacher for an entire program.

    Cut the teacher, you lose the program.

    It’s a little unclear what happens next for these districts. My sense is that they are not crying wolf here. Many superintendents really do see true insolvency on the horizon.

    So to reiterate: I think there probably was some trimming to be done in 2010. But in 2013? Bigger questions are being asked…

    –Brian, NCPR

  5. The Original Larry says:

    “It’s a little unclear what happens next for these districts.”

    Not to me it isn’t. They’ll do what everyone does when confronted with the ugly consequences of having lived beyond one’s means: cut back or go under. Unless they live in Newcomb, where they’ll try to get the disenfranchised to pay for it.

  6. Dave says:

    I’m still struggling with this.

    A business has an overhead budget per employee. Desks, computers, office space, etc. When you reduce the number of employees, you reduce the money you spend on that overhead. The budget contracts and inflates with these changes.

    I have to assume that schools have a similar dynamic. A per child overhead. If you reduce the amount of children you need to educate, you reduce the amount you spend on things like desks, computers, books, maintenance (less wear and tear), fuel (less kids to bus, less rooms to heat), and yes, teachers.

    Is this not the case?

    Or, is the problem that our education infrastructure – the size of the buildings, the promised bus routes, the offered “programs”, the number of teachers considered acceptable by the community – has been built out in such a way, and to such a degree, that it can not be contracted or downsized beyond a certain point?

  7. The Original Larry says:

    You’ve got it, Dave! Communities won’t run schools in a business-like manner unless forced to do so. Finally, that’s happening and better late than never.

  8. Brian Mann says:

    Hi guys –

    I do think the paradigm you’re using — that a school is like a personal budget or a business — is problematic.

    Schools are more like hospitals. Yes, they have budgets, yes they have to find a way to achieve a sustainable relationship with their community.

    But they do all kinds of things that have a moral or social dimension that doesn’t translate to your business-with-employees model.

    So let’s say, for example, that you have one math teacher in a hyper-rural district. Let’s say your class drops from 12 kids to 8 kids. Do you stop having math?

    Or another example: Let’s say that this year you have two kids with really expensive developmental disabilities – things that cost you heaps of extra money to accomodate in the classroom.

    Do you send those kids home?

    No. You can’t. First, because it’s illegal and second because most people in your community would be outraged.

    It’s also worth pointing out that schools produce a range of vital services that don’t pay off for years or decades, everything from adequate nutrition to, you know, literacy.

    How do you put a price tag on the fact that twenty years from now your business will hire a kid from one of these schools who knows how to do the things you need done?

    Obviously, there are debates to be had within the framework of schools and what they mean to our communities.

    How much should teachers earn? Should schools feed kids? How well? How much should we all pay in property taxes?

    But it’s important to remember that really smart, really ethical people have been trying to solve these problems for a long time. It’s hard and it’s complicated.

    And unlike a person or a business, we can’t just throw in the towel or relocate or try to offer a different product.

    -Brian, NCPR

  9. Dave says:


    I’m not making a judgement call about how much we should spend per child, or the types of services that can be afforded based on whatever that cost per child is.

    I’m asking why, when we have a reduction in the children we have to educate, we can’t also have a reduction in our total expenditures to educate those children.

    It strikes me as basic math. The total cost to educate 100 kids is more than the cost to educate 20.

    Whether you spend what Brian M. thinks we should per child… or you spend what Larry thinks we should per child… when you have less kids to educate, your total expenses to educate them should be less.

    If the business model confuses the issue, then stick with the hospital analogy. A hospital with fewer patients in its care does not have to spend as much money on patient care.

    That this doesn’t seem to be the case with our education budgets is confusing to me.

  10. The Original Larry says:

    “But it’s important to remember that really smart, really ethical people have been trying to solve these problems for a long time. It’s hard and it’s complicated.”

    I sense the implication that those of us who favor business-like financial policies aren’t smart enough or ethical enough. Really smart, really ethical people have been successfully running businesses and school type operations for a long time. Before I am accused of paranoia, why else would you make such a statement? What exactly does it mean?

  11. jill vaughan says:

    Pension promises were made years ago, that are not sustainable in today’s economy. Benefit pacakges and pay for unused sick time, etc., were negotiated when there were fewer mandates, special needs programs, and health benefit costs were a fraction of what they are today. We are reaping the decisions people made in the eighties.

  12. Dave says:

    Here is another way of thinking about it, using fictional school districts.

    Big Lake school district serves an area, and has an enrollment, that is larger than Small Lake school district.

    Small Lake school district has operated with a budget designed to serve less kids. They haven’t been kicking kids with disabilities out of school or canceling Math.

    If Big Lake’s enrollment begins to look more like Small Lake’s… why is the choice raise taxes or go bankrupt? Why can’t they just do what Small Lake has been doing, and operate on a budget designed to serve less kids?

  13. Dori says:

    The real problem is where they are cutting – while I hate to see anyone lose a job, our schools have too many secretaries, support staff and administrators. Too many unfunded mandates exist. We need to reorganize our schools and begin sharing some major services to save money instead of cutting the very people who work directly with students. Merger may become necessity. In our area, we could also easily have one superintendent of schools for a BOCES district with just building principals to handle behavior and other basic assignments. We could hire a top notch CEO of schools and a highly qualified director of finance for the whole area and eliminate those positions at the local level. Administrators who are making $150,000 or more plus benefits are costing the districts a lot and in all honesty, I cannot see what some of them do to earn it. I dare say, we should omit the small town boards of education as well. While well meaning, most of us aren’t qualified to make the decisions required to what amounts to multi-million dollar businesses and that should also be done by qualified people at a different level. I know that small towns value “their” school, but it just isn’t viable to leave things as they are anymore. And yes, I am a teacher, but they never ask us what they should do to improve things academically or financially.

  14. Brian Mann says:

    Dave –

    If you have a group of kids who need a certain kind of instruction, you can often get away with having 30-40 kids in the classroom. A lot of schools do that and that’s a way they find efficiencies.

    But if you start with a small rural district that may have, say, 14 kids in a group that need a certain kind of instruction and that number drops to twelve or nine what do you do?

    Do you lay off the one remaining teacher. Do you stop offering math or science?

    Whether you have four or twelve kids on a long bus route, you still have to run the bus.

    Twenty or a hundred kids eating lunch? You still need a cafeteria.

    There are fixed costs in rural districts that are tough to overcome.

    Larry –

    You assume that the problem is simple and that it’s as easy as balancing your personal budget, or treating schools like a straight-forward business.

    My point is that if it were that simple, it would have happened. The smart, ethical people who are trying to solve this problem would have done it by now.

    I’m not accusing you of paranoia, I’m accusing you of oversimplifying a very difficult, thorny problem that includes fiscal dimensions but also moral ones.

    –Brian, NCPR

  15. Dave says:


    Thanks for sticking with me on this one.

    I understand that there is an irreducible element to the infrastructure that goes along with education.

    You need a cafeteria whether you have 100 kids, or 20. I get that.

    But the amount of food you serve, and the amount of people you pay to serve that food is significantly different. 100 kids cost more to feed than 20.

    And no, you don’t stop offering Math or Science. This is a false dilemma that we shouldn’t insert into this discussion. When have schools ever stopped offering Math? Schools with enrollments far less than that of Tupper Lake are not canceling Math. How are they doing it?

  16. Lily says:

    Taking Dave’s issue a step further, why does there continue to be state $ available for new and expanded schools? In recent years I can think of numerous districts that built large expansions and or new facilities. Somewhat related is our willingness to build huge multi-million dollar firehouses, including for those towns and villages that have all volunteer forces, so no residential facilities are needed. Why do we need multimillion dollar facilities to park trucks inside of? I think in both cases local taxpayers have the mentality that “state” grants is ” free” money. It’s just recycled, folks, from all those who pay income and sales taxes.

  17. Lily says:

    Dowe really have to provide transportation to and from school for all students? Why? Eliminate the busses, drivers, and fuel costs and focus the money on education and teachers.

  18. Lily says:

    Why does a school the size of Keene, Westport, Newcomb, Long Lake, etc., need both a principal and a superintendent? There is $ 150K+ that could be saved in numerous small ADK districts.

  19. The Original Larry says:

    I never said it was simple and I was careful to use the term “business-like”. That said, there’s nothing terribly complex about restricting spending to available funds. It’s a fallacy to excuse overspending by saying the business of schools is “complicated”. Also, there’s nothing unethical about financial conservatism.

  20. mervel says:


    But I think what happens is that the total costs (not marginal costs) of providing a NYS certified education for 50 children or 200 children is about the same. So you have to have a building of a particular standard that meets state requirements, you have to have particular coursework you have to pay into the pension plan and health plan that is set by the state. Those costs ALL have been going up every year and the schools have no control over them. They can’t say due to cost reasons we are going to lower your pension, no the law says that is set in stone you must pay a certain amount if you want to be a public school.

    I agree that we need to look at how we are cutting, I think administrative costs are far far to high and I frankly think we spend far too much on non-classroom education positions. Why we would ever lay off a science teacher or a history teacher and keep a school counselor, school psychologist and a special ed reading teacher/ this makes no sense. Classroom teaching is where education actually happens, study after study shows you invest in in the classroom and you make a difference; these other programs are nice and actually needed but they are indeed LESS important than classroom teaching; these are very hard choices and they are choices that are not being made. Of course the proliferation of principles and superintendents for 500-1000kids is also nuts. For 500-1000 kids you need ONE principle and maybe one super, you do not need three principles for elementary, middle and high school. Look at downstate they have one grade with 400 kids they have one principle handle 1500 kids and one super handle 5000 kids.

    But many of these things I believe are required by the state and that is where we get into mandate relief. But anyway that is why we pay these guys to figure this out! The current model is not working in our rural area; lets make a new one or at least outline what a new one might look like.

  21. mervel says:


    No school in the North Country smaller than Tupper Lake is doing well.

  22. mervel says:

    Also keep in mind that in many towns at least in SLC and a lot of the north country, these are the best paying jobs with the best benefits in the whole county and town. When you cut them it is a huge impact. This is not the case downstate, but up here due to the high levels of poverty and high unemployment, it is really hard to get rid of any position that actually pays health insurance and actually has a retirement pension.

  23. Krista says:

    While its easy to say that cutting or reducing bus routes and/ or cafeteria costs would be beneficial for the districts, this would only hurt the children. Some kids at these schools get 1-2 decent meals a day- at school. There are also many families who do not have reliable transportation to get their children to and from school each day. Again, the child will suffer, as the districts would see increases absences.

  24. Dave says:

    “the total costs (not marginal costs) of providing a NYS certified education for 50 children or 200 children is about the same.”

    If this were really true, then almost every rural school district should have more or less the same budget.

    But that is definitely not the case.

    Absent additional information, it is hard not to conclude that some schools are simply trying to maintain operating budgets that were created to support X amount of students… and now that they have less, they are unable (or unwilling) to appropriately adjust those budgets.

    I understand, and sympathize very much with, the difficulties of such cuts – especially personnel cuts. But implying that they are impossible… that bankruptcy, higher taxes, or cutting basic services are the only options… just doesn’t seem to pass the smell test for most of us.

  25. scratchy says:

    Brian Mann:

    “It’s a little unclear what happens next for these districts. My sense is that they are not crying wolf here. Many superintendents really do see true insolvency on the horizon.”

    I’m sure many superintendents do see insolvency. But, I have to wonder how many superintendents have offered to agree to a pay cut? Have any at all? Given how many people in the north country are struggling simply to survive that would seem to be a reasonable thing to do even though it obviously wouldn’t come close to solving the problem.

  26. Dave says:

    Krista, I don’t think anyone is suggesting that kids should have access to fewer meals.

    What I am pointing out is that it should cost less to feed fewer kids (the same amount of meals)

  27. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    School buses are an efficient, cost effective and safe way to transport children. 30 kids on one bus getting 8mpg is much better than 30 kids in 20 cars all averaging 25 mpg. The costs of eliminating school buses will be thrown onto parents, maybe to the relief of those without kids in school. But there is an increased cost of transportation the difference is in who pays. In an even bigger picture sense you have to look at the costs of more cars on the road, the increased risk of accidents, costs of insurance, and the value to society as a whole.

    About cafeteria costs, there is the advantage of scale to consider. A given number of staff can produce x number of meals most efficiently. Reducing the number of meals may actually make the cost per meal increase until you reach a point where you can fire a worker.

    There were reasons why people long ago decided they would pay for transportation and meals as part of education. Not to mention lots of other stuff.

  28. Earl Crabb says:

    Here is my take on it……..if they are so broke why are they buying new buses? There must be enough money in the game to afford this instead of making do with what you have and keeping up maintenance or overhauling them. The teachers……..they get paid far too much for the every day off on the calendar that permits, spring breaks, snow breaks, you name it……cut the pay, they take 80% of the budget and pour it into the overpaid union workers with more benefits than you can shake a stick at. Take a look at this website and enter Carthage…….then tell me they don’t get paid too much. Enough of this pick 1 of 2 budgets and both being a win win scenario…stop the whining and start the cutting. We spend more money on a student’s education here in NY than most anywhere USA, but it doesn’t go to the kids, it’s going to the teachers salaries……wake up and don’t buy the “it’s hurting the kids”…they could care less, it’s about their paycheck and don’t you believe otherwise!

  29. scott says:

    so why dont we cut out or reduce sports !!! . 10 years ago students and teachers cared about learning and now its all about what team is in first or what division did they take . i feel if you want to play sports then your parents can pay extra for your busing to and from games or at least pitch in . why should i have to pay for your child to play sports . also i feel that if you DONT OWN PROPERTY THEN YOU SHOULD NOT BE ABLE TO VOTE FOR WHAT I HAVE TO PAY !!! get sick of students and military that dont own property vote on what my taxes are going to be .

  30. Ed says:

    It is the teachers pay and pensions causing the issue! Like Carthage where you have a PE teacher making over a 100,000.00 a year! Really, for PE!!

  31. oa says:

    We can’t have nice things. Close all schools now. They’re bad business. Ayn Rand rules.
    Less kids equals less schools equals less dollars. Who needs grammer anyway.

  32. newt says:

    From Brian’s reporting, it looks like within a couple of years, several North Country school systems will simply be unable to support the basic requirements of State Education Dept. , and may be forced to go out of business. This will leave students to be picked up by other districts (3 hour bus rides for some, no doubt) , the State, or nobody.

    If these districts were smart, they would get organized, start planning for dissolution, hire some lobbyists, and start graphically describing this scenario right now, before the next gubernatorial election. Gov. Cuomo may be right about the old way of doing business being unsustainable, but the new way of doing business isn’t working out all that well either. Downstaters don’t care much about our schools, but neither they, nor national Democrats, will look with great favor on, or reality, of several thousand NYS school kids without schools on Cuomo’s watch.

    And yes, as with private business, a school bankruptcies may result in renegotiation of existing employee contracts.

  33. The idea that public services should be run identically to businesses strikes some as absurd, but I say let’s expand it beyond schools!

    If sheriff’s department is short of cash, let them give out more tickets; I’m sure there’s some rarely enforced statute about covering your mouth when you sneeze that could bring in more revenue.

    If the corrections [sic] service has trouble meeting payroll, just offload release prisoners. That’ll help them live within their means.

    Maybe police and fire departments should close at 5:00 or 9:00 pm, just like a regular business. If you get robbed or your house burns down overnight, oh well.

    Maybe these men and women in uniform don’t need the “luxury” of health care. That’d slash expenses significantly.

    Maybe EMTs should make you pre-pay before splinting your broken leg, just like gas stations make you pre-pay.

    Public services run exactly like businesses? Great idea! I’m sure you folks can come up with some more “innovations.”

  34. JimT says:

    I can’t speak for other districts but I did go to the Tupper Lake school website and found some interesting/troubling numbers. Specifically the Health Ins premiums. Out of a $17M budget the health Ins costs are almost $3.2M for the upcoming yr. It has increased an outstanding $461000. in one yr.
    Last I knew, the teachers were contributing a paltry $1000./yr towards a family plan that at the time cost the district over $17000./yr. And the $1000 contribution was a huge increase over the $400/yr they used to contribute. The teachers need to contribut a fixed percentage of the premiums/yr not a fixed dollar amount. This would be a good first step and next the board should look to do the same as Saranac Lake did, change Health Ins carriers for a substantial savings. It’s not that hard.
    Keep in mind the Tupper Lake school is proposing to use about $500,000. from reserve funds for next yrs budget, which is just barely more than the increase in the Health Ins premiums. I’m all for a good educational system but the school needs to get in line with all other governmental agency employee contributions towards health Insurance costs.

  35. newt says:

    After listening to the report again, I realized that several reporters and Martha Foley worked on it, not just Brian Mann. This points out the value of NCPR, the only media entity to report on our entire region to do in-depth reporting on our entire region.

  36. newt says:

    One more comment, for now. Listening to, and reading this report, and comments, I went on-line to compare with Vermont’s vis-a-vis financing education. I couldn’t find much. From occasionally watching WPTZ-TV, (which is based in Plattsburgh but is mostly about Vermont news -reflecting it’s viewership, I assume), I know Vermont schools have problems (and their teachers can and do strike). But Vermont , roughly equivalent to our own region in population, demographics, geography, culture, etc.) seems to be escaping systemic, chronic, large scale, public school financial crises. Or am I misinformed?

    If Vermont is getting by, while many North Country schools are in financial crisis, a look into this might be helpful.

  37. Mervel says:

    Newt we (the north country), are poorer than Vermont, our property has less value and we have less income to tax in the first place. But I agree a look at rural schools in other parts of the country would be helpful. But just drive through the North County from Ogdensburg to Plattsburgh and drive then through northern Vermont starting in Burlington; the differences in the housing stock and the farms are quite striking.

    But anyway on the school budget, we can talk about busing and we can talk about sports and we can talk about cutting an extra secretary, but the bottom line is those won’t make a dent in the overall budget. As pointed out above the budget is driven by pension and health care costs, which are out of the control of the schools. Yes we can continue to cut positions, but at what cost and many of these positions are mandated by the state if you are going to operate as school. If you have 5 kids in kindergarten and 1st grade you have to provide at least a K-1 classroom and a teacher for those 5 kids, you can’t throw them in with the 2nd graders the state won’t allow it. So as school enrollments shrink you do not get a concurrent shrinking in budget at least not one for one. The average costs per student always falls when you have scale and always goes up as you lose students.

  38. Mervel says:

    The answer in the long run is going to be larger districts and larger schools the question is how to make that happen in the least painful and most effective way for our children.

  39. Earl Crabb says:

    The state of NY is on the verge of economic collapse. It’s state employees and unions have grown to the point of taking more than can be delivered. It is unsustainable to continue on the path they are and raising taxes is the only means to buy a little more time. You will see more and more folks losing their homes to tax sales because there is just not the employment to support the ever increasing demands of existence here. It’s a beautiful state, but has been poisoned with over taxation. It is truly a waste of time trying to fight the money grabbers, it will take a complete crash or bankruptcy of the state to wake enough people up to do something relevant to actually finding resolve and moving forward in a way that is sustainable and fair to all.

  40. JimT says:

    Ultimately I think we need a different way to fund the schools, property taxation is grossly unfair. I don’t know the answer but there has to be a fairer way, and I don’t own any property in NY.

  41. V. Burnett says:

    One big difference between Vermont and Upstate NY is that Vermonters recognize how powerful good education can be as economic and cultural drivers in the economy. I hear over and over again how we “pay those rascally teachers too durn much for the job they do, considerin’ as how they get the whole summer off and vacations and snow days and health insurance and they bein’ just sub-standard teachers anyway, just from SUNY Potsdam, not from some of them fancy Universities farther away.”

    We ought to turn the scenario around and start demanding that we spend more on education, provide more extra curricular and AP programs for local kids, more arts enrichment, more accessible services for special needs, more progressive curricula and more test prep/university application support for Juniors and Seniors. Maybe if we did this, the North Country would gradually cease to be a professional wasteland, more of our students would come home to start businesses after college, more doctors and entrepreneurs would want to live here and more money would be generated in the local economy.

    We’re so worried about how expensive it is to educate children. I believe that it is probably a lot less expensive to pay a few teachers a reasonable wage with good health insurance benefits now than it will be to provide all of our students with food stamps, welfare checks and medicaid for the rest of their adult lives.

    That’s where I see the North Country headed right now. It is looking pretty bleak. My local school district (St. Lawrence Central) has done a great job of saving money back when there was a surplus, cutting costs in the past 5 years and still providing a fairly reasonable level of education for students. We’ve only got a few years left before the district has to shut the doors, though, according to budget predictions. I will probably homeschool my son when that happens but what will other families do?

    (P.S. Another difference between Vermont & NY is that Vermont isn’t as heavily laden with mandates and “education industry” lobbyists as NY currently is. The big changes have to happen in Albany.)

  42. The fundamental problem with education in NYS is that the mandates come from Albany and Washington but a huge chunk of the funding comes from local taxpayers. My solution is pretty simple: make the state and feds fund everything they mandate at 100%. Let local districts fund only the optional stuff they *choose* to provide (AP, sports, music, etc). That’ll switch the burden from the narrow property tax concept to the broader income tax concept. Plus, it’ll force the legislature to actually stop and think before it imposes mandates because it’s going to be the one that actually has to pay for it.

  43. V. Burnett says:

    We also need to remember that taxpayer increases in health care costs are going straight into the pockets on insurance executives, usually at the same time that teachers are willingly shouldering a greater employee contribution and/or significant increases in co-pays.

    Local pension fund payment increases are a direct result of the losses in the stock market. Sound banking practices would have prevented those losses and concurrent expenses.

    The teachers are not the enemy.

  44. Mervel says:

    The teachers are certainly not the enemy.

    The majority of the funding for our schools does NOT come from local property taxes, it comes from the state of New York. Even with our crazy high property taxes.

  45. Mervel says:

    So we are indeed totally dependent on Albany, that is the cause of this crisis, the money from Albany is not keeping up with the costs, we can’t make it up in local property taxes there is simply not enough out there to tax in that way.

  46. The Original Larry says:

    I’m sure many have already seen the articles cited below. I can’t believe anyone would vote for a school budget proposed by one of these crybabies, but many will and that’s an important clue about the problem and the eventual solution. The same applies to the disgraceful, corrupt politicians we keep returning to Albany. Living in New York is like watching an endless loop of the same train wreck.

  47. Mike says:

    While searching for a job, I always rule out any that require me to work summers, pay for my own insurance or pension. I also want my pay to go up every year even though I do the same thing. In fact on May 21 last year I was sitting at my desk doing the same exact thing. And I want to get my sick days paid when I leave.

  48. Paul says:

    “And unlike a person or a business, we can’t just throw in the towel or relocate or try to offer a different product. ”

    I am afraid that you can. Some schools have thrown in the towel. Others will probably follow. Economic activity is the only thing that can save the schools. It is not like property tax rates are too low in NYS. Schools have made the same mistakes as many companies. Promising good pensions without properly funding them and other things that have gotten them in a pinch.

  49. newt says:

    The North Country vs. Vermont issue fascinates me. WHY does Vermont do so much better? Here is a column by the PSUC economist Colin Read from May 12th that touches on it. He seems to say it has more than anything to do with the attitude of Vermonters, who, in spite of electing Senators like Bernie Sanders seem to be more self-reliant and entrepreneurial, as well as optimistic, than we. I wasn’t here, but I get the impression that this was not always the case. Pre-WWII Vt. was thought to be one of the most backward of New England states.

    Oh, well, our mountains are taller and we have a lot more lakes than Vermont.

  50. Dave says:

    It may be worth noting that, based on student performance, 4 of our region’s high schools were among the top 20 in the State (there are 700+ public high schools in NYS). Newcomb(4), Keene(8), Westport(14) and North Warren(16). And it turns out Wells has one #1 best elementary school in the state.


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