Cooperstown Crier - Your Source for Hometown News - Cooperstown, Baseball Hall of Fame

In These Otsego Hills

April 12, 2012

In These Otsego Hills: CCS balancing act ... side two

— Last week we shared a number of activities in which students at CCS can participate. We thought it was an impressive, if not overwhelming, list. And we are indeed pleased that the young people of our area have these opportunities. However, we think it is also important to keep in mind that these undertakings do have a cost associated with them. They are not free. In fact there are, no doubt, those who would say they do not come cheap.

In response to that comment, we decided we might once again take a look at how the cost of education, as well as the number of students, at CCS has changed over the past 10 years In 2001-02, the school had 1,272 students, the budget was $12,462,355 and the tax levy was $6,923,311.

In 2012-13, the school anticipates having 884 students, the proposed budget is $16,772,080 and the proposed tax levy is $10,702,711.

In 2001-02, property taxes comprised 55.6 percent of the school’s revenue, state aid was 39.9 percent and 4.5 percent was listed as other.

In 2012-13, proposed property taxes would comprise 64 percent of the school’s revenue, state aid would be 29 percent, while 7 percent would be other.

Thus, in this time frame, the number of students has declined 30.5 percent, the budget has gone up 34.1 percent and the tax levy has gone up 54.7 percent. Yet, according to the online inflation calculator, from 2001 to 2012, inflation has gone up only 28.5 percent.

In addition, it should be noted that for the 2001-02 budget, the school was able to transfer $250,000, or  2.5 percent of the budget,from the undesignated fund balance. For the 2012-13 budget, the school is proposing transferring $786,975, or 4.7 percent of the budget, from the undesignated fund balance.

It would seem that these changes in both the budget and the student population, as well as the school’s proposed 2012-13 budget, present an opportunity for musing about why the school’s finances are what they are.

For example, while discussing these numbers with a good friend, the conversation lead quickly to a number of questions. As a taxpayer, what is most troubling about these figures? Are the tax dollars being spent wisely? How long can this financial situation at the school continue? Will the  situation improve or simplycontinue to deteriorate?

Can we afford more of the same? Should the school be spending upwards of $20,000 per student each year? Is it realistic to think, as do some residents of the district, that the school should spend whatever?

And while we think these are all good questions, they were but the beginning of our pondering on the issue of the cost of educations at CCS. We do know that one of the big problems with state aid for CCS is the fact that the district is considered to be a wealthy district. The total property value of the district is just over  $1 billion, not an insubstantialsum. We have also learned that the income wealth of the district, which is taken from 2008, the most recent year for which there is data, is pegged at $183,000,109. We note this is a reduction from the 2007 total income of the district of $215,000,000, a fact which does make us wonder what the actual total income of the district is currently.

And while it would seem that, given the numbers, CCS is indeed a wealthy district.

However, that designation is somewhat problematic as there are a number of residents of the district who have owned their property for years who would not be able to purchase their property today. And the income wealth is certainly not distributed equally among district residents.

Therefore, there are a number of residents who are property rich but income poor. And they are indeed struggling to pay their school taxes, even though they may be eligible for the enhanced STAR program.

Beyond that, we have to wonder how the combination of high property values and high school taxes affect the ability for some young families with children to live in the district? Also, does the seemingly small number of year around rental properties figure into the decline in the student population?

We also are puzzled, given the fact that the proposed student population will decline from 937 this year to 884 next year, the overall school budget for the upcoming year is being reduced by less than $200,000. Somehow we thought, given not only the reduction in student population, but also the cut of 4.5 FTE faculty members, there might be a greater savings realized than there appears to be.

And finally, we wonder how it is possible to have had $714,976 to transfer from the reserve fund into the 2011-12 budget and to now have an additional $786,975 to transfer from that fund to the 2012-13 budget. We can but conclude that the process of estimating the school’s income and spending simply must be way off the mark. Can we hope that going forward, the budget might be more realistic?

We must admit that we have no answers to these questions. In fact, we don’t know if anyone does. But we do feel that the educational system that we have long known at CCS is changing. In light of the economic realities, it seems there is a definite trend toward sharing services with other districts. In the past we have seen sharing of participation in sports and it now seems the district is sharing a cafeteria manager with Milford. Also the district has purchased supplies through our BOCES. And now, as we learned at a recent school board meeting, the school’s bread bid is going through the Binghamton BOCES.

And we suspect, given the economics, the concept of shared services will continue.

What we do not know is whether, by enacting the 2 percent property tax cap, the state is pushing smaller, rural schools into consolidation with neighboring districts. No doubt time will tell.

It seems we are indeed in uncertain times in terms of school funding. The state aid keeps dropping and property taxes keep rising. It is a turn of events which we do not like to see and which leaves all of us little choice but to stay as informed as possible on the issues as they develop. And there is little doubt we will have to deal with whatever lies ahead, hoping that it does not force even more people, especially those with children, from the area.

PLEASE NOTE: Comments regarding this column may be made by mail at 105 Pioneer Street, Cooperstown, NY 13326, by telephone at 607-547-8124 or by e-mail at

Text Only
In These Otsego Hills
  • The cruelest month of all It has long been said that April is the cruelest month of all. However, given our recent winter, the cruelest month designation might well be open for debate this year.

    April 17, 2014

  • Sharing conspiracy theories on Main Having traversed the village a number of times now, we have come to the conclusion that there is very little reason to mention the current crop of potholes. It seems they are quite able to speak for themselves. In fact, they seem to do so loud and clear.

    April 10, 2014

  • Recovering with family and friends We must say we were somewhat overwhelmed by the telephone calls and emails that we received regarding last week's column. From what we were told it greatly brightened the day for a number of people. In fact, several of our callers told us they were going to cut it out and send it to friends around the country. And just as the column brightened the day for a number of our readers, their responses absolutely made our day. In fact, we are tempted to think it made not only our day, but our week, our month and perhaps even our year.

    April 3, 2014

  • Back to the present Much as we have enjoyed our recent trip through the archives of 1984, we fear we must return to 2014. If nothing else, we were reminded during our journey that the column today is not the column of 1984. But then, we suspect the greater Cooperstown community today is not the community of 1984. And while it is nice to reminisce about yesteryear, it is also important to recognize where we are today. And when we do that, we tend to focus on the one thing that has always made this column seem to work, namely the input of our readers.

    March 27, 2014

  • '84 carnival didn't go as planned This week we begin with one more of our favorite column items from 1984 concerning Winter Carnival which didn't go exactly as planned. We wrote:

    March 20, 2014

  • DAR column sends us down memory lane Of all the scripts we found in our cleaning of the basement, the one that intrigued us the most is one that we had completely forgotten we had written. It was done for a program we presented quite a while ago at a meeting of the Cooperstown DAR. As we recall, Lona Smith had asked us to talk about our experiences with writing this column. And since that could be a rather lengthy presentation, we decided to limit ourselves to talking about our first year of writing the column.

    March 13, 2014

  • Remembering a CCS vote that failed| We note that the next meeting of the Literary Discussion Group, sponsored by the Women's Club of Cooperstown, will be held on Thursday, March 27 at 2:30 p.m. at the Village of Cooperstown Library. Jane Anne Russell will lead a discussion on the book "North to the Orient" by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. The meeting is open to the public.

    March 6, 2014

  • Cookies make a better valentine than MRI We had originally thought that our entire Valentine's Day celebration would be a trip to Bassett healthcare to get a MRI of our lower back. Thus we were most pleasantly surprised when a friend dropped in on us with a bag of heart shaped, frosted sugar cookies for us.

    February 27, 2014

  • Swing and a miss on PumpkinFest We must admit that we are probably not as caught up in sports as some people are.

    February 20, 2014

  • Keeping busy as winter creeps From all that we hear, any number of people are sick of the winter weather. And, given what it has been, it is not difficult to understand why, especially if one is not particularly taken by winter weather in the first place. However, we do suspect that, unlike some years, the weather worked out well for Cooperstown's annual Winter Carnival. We must admit that we have not participated in the Winter Carnival for a number of years for the simple fact that it is held in the winter. And we are simply not devotees of the winter. But, should the decision ever be made, which we find highly unlikely, to hold the Winter Carnival in the spring or the fall, we might be more inclined to participate

    February 13, 2014