“I have a responsibility to put forth a spending plan” to go before voters in May, Shea said, adding that while it was the hardest decision he has ever made as Oneonta superintendent, it was necessary to maintain programs without increasing taxes an unacceptable amount.
In April the board decided to give voters a chance to decide the issue in May 15 voting. One budget option would call for a 1.81 percent tax levy increase that would call for the closing of the school. The second would call for an additional 5.15 percent tax increase that would raise $931,536 necessary to keep the building open. Despite a campaign to convince residents to support the additional tax hike, the effort was defeated by a more than 2-1 majority.
The final day of classes, June 21, was an emotional one for many. Principal Coleen Lewis said: “It was the last day we would be together as a Center Street family. I tried to keep it upbeat — to make it a positive ending.” It went really well thanks to the “professional manner of the teachers and staff. They rose to the occasion,” she said. Lewis, who lost her job in the cutbacks, went on to be principal at Schenevus Central School starting in July.
In September, the school year began with some transportation problems, but following reports said it had improved. At a December 5 board meeting, principals of the remaining three elementary schools said that while the closing remains an emotional issue for some, it has had educational benefits.
The Unatego Central School Board started discussing a plan to reconfigure its two elementary schools last year in the face of a projected budget shortfall of about $1 million. It was decided to table the issue in light of concerns of local residents until more details were known about state aid.