Winter is over but Spring is breaking bad. The Yankees don’t have a prayer. The Red Sox are ... well, the Red Sox. Sooner of later, they’ll break your heart. The Tax Man cometh for our money. And for our local schools, it’s Budget Time. Definitely breaking bad for the schools.
The Unatego Central School District’s budget shortfall is $519,000. The school board is considering several Hail Mary solutions but short of a miracle, Otego Elementary may have to close.
At a recent Planning Board meeting, we learned that 10 percent of the housing in the Village of Otego is empty. The village is mowing the grass on several of these properties to keep up appearances. Not quite Detroit but definitely sub-optimal. Take a walk and you can trip over the FOR SALE signs. A lot of good they’re doing. There’s not enough sales in Otego to do the comparables necessary for a town revaluation. Building permits? Very quiet, we‘re told. Even the good news has a tinge of grayness about it. There is talk of Dollar General coming to town. Certainly welcome but the emphasis in Dollar General is on the “Dollar.”
Fifteen years ago, there were 1,450 students in the Unatego district. Today — 1,030. Unatego is not unique. Over the last 10 years there has been a 20 percent decline in the DCMO BOCES schools. Richard Deitz of the Second Federal Reserves reports that if Central New York were to be considered a state, the in-migration of the young, child-bearing population would rank us 49th out of the 50 states. Nobody is coming to our area to replace the normal population drift of the young adults.
It doesn’t have to be this way. North Dakota, Texas, Ohio, and Pennsylvania are booming, adding good paying jobs to local economies, reviving the Rust Belt, building hope for the future. They are developing their shale resources and, in so doing, taking our nation from energy dependence to energy independence, changing the way we generate electricity from coal to gas while driving our CO2 emissions to a 20-year low. A win/win situation all the way. While Gov. Andrew Cuomo fingers his worry beads over his ideologue base, other states are forging ahead in spite of the low-growth recession we’re in.