The Daily Star
---- — We are happy to report that we did indeed have a meeting with both the Superintendent of Schools and the Superintendent of Buildings and Grounds at CCS to discuss our questions and concerns about the proposed capital project. Plus we also had the opportunity to chat with the Business Manager regarding funding for the project. And for the most part we feel we now know more about the project although we still find ourselves musing about it.
In regards to our concern about not having the estimated cost of the various parts of the project, we learned that it seems that the architectural firm for the project is also heavily involved in deciding what the public should and should not know. And we gather, from what we were told, that it is their opinion that the more the public knows, the less likely the project is to pass which would no doubt not be in the architectural firm’s best interest. Thus we find it interesting that the school would choose to defer to the architectural firm as we have to wonder what on earth the architectural firm knows about those of us living in the school district. Of course, we might be tempted to think that about the school too.
We also learned that the project is not slated to begin until 2015. And while we understand it takes time to get state approval of the project as well as bid the project, we think the 2015 start really makes us wonder about the seeming rush to have the vote on this project. Somehow it is hard to understand how waiting a month until after the holidays would be the end of the world or at least the end of the project.
We also asked how long it would take for the school to realize a savings in energy based on the conversion from current lighting to LED lighting. As we understand it, all the lighting slated to be replaced works except for the strip lights above the stage. And although there was no answer for that particular question, we were told that for all the parts of the project designed to make the school more energy efficient, the pay back time would be 18 years. Obviously, the change to propane heat would be sooner than would the change in lighting.
When we expressed our concerns about both the new parent drop off lane and the new music practice rooms, we discovered that there is indeed concern about both the safety and supervision which will result from these two parts of the project. Likewise we learned that the replacement of elementary school doors, although we are not clear about exactly which doors are slated to be replaced, has to do with improved security at that building.
And while we do not have exact figures for the various costs within the project, we believe, based on our discussion, that the planned removal of floor tiles at the elementary will cost over a half a million dollars, while the improvements to the school’s three parking lots will be in the area of three million dollars.
While it no doubt can be argued that in the scheme of things the actual cost of the project, without the cost of funding the project, is a mere $6,609,000; $2,182,000 for the elementary school, $3,557,000 for the middle/high school and $870,000 for the bus garage. Thus, the cost of the proposed project is just slightly over one third the amount of the school’s annual budget. But it also should be noted that the state aid for the project is about 72 percent while the state aid for the annual budget is about 28 percent. However, that does not mean there are not reasons to be concerned about the cost of the proposed project.
For example, we feel we need to point out that, according to the “Financial Statement and Required Reports under OMB Circular A-133 as of June 30, 2013 Together with Independent Auditor’s Reports” prepared by Bonadio & Co., LLP, Certified Public Accountants, the potential future of finances at CCS is not exactly rosy.
The report states, in the section entitled “Factors Bearing on the District’s Future,” that “... the trend for Cooperstown Central School will continue to shift financial responsibility from state and federal aid resources to local taxpayers. Due to the reality of the tax levy limit, expansion and/or improvement of programming will be difficult and require continued fiduciary stewardship.”
It quite makes us wonder what, going forward, is the plan? And what will the financial picture for the school be?
We also have to wonder, in light of recent developments, what the school was thinking when it decided to accept $10,000 from the Oneida Nation. We have heard the decision to accept the money is considered by many to be either a bribe or a payback for changing the sports teams’ nickname. And while we have no problem with changing the name, we do have a problem with the school accepting the Oneida Nation’s money. The result seems to have been to make the school district a lobbying arm of the Oneida Nation in its attempts to now change the name of the Washington Redskins. It is not a position in which we think the school district should find itself.
Additionally, we have to agree with the caller who asked us what right the school has to give away school property as seems to have been the case not only in providing a school jersey to give to the president, as thanks for his remarks about the Washington Redskins name, but also for providing a jersey to be given, if what we have learned is true, to the Smithsonian.
As we have said, we have no problem with changing the school’s nickname. But, accepting the Oneida Nation donation to purchase uniforms, and then giving the Oneida Nation jerseys to pass out in pursuit of their goals is not, we think, in the best interest of the school. But then neither is the sentiment voiced about the school in a recent e-mail we received from a CCS alum.
It read, in part, “... I look at a school like Cooperstown, with the most easily educable population known to man, no real problems and a tremendous amount of resources and conclude that they really, truly stink. They’ve got the anti-Midas touch. They’re given gold and produce at a high cost lump after lump of lead. It’s an embarrassment.”
We would suggest that anyone who has questions or concerns about the the proposed capital project should attend the public meeting on the project which will be held on Tuesday, Dec. 2 at 7 p.m. in the Junior/Senior High School Cafeteria. And then we would encourage everyone to vote on the proposed capital project on Wednesday, Dec. 11 from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. in Room 204 of the Junior/Senior High School.
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