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December 19, 2013

Still in favor of CCS project

Cooperstown Crier

---- — We’re disappointed with the results of the Cooperstown Central School vote on the construction project and we hope this isn’t the end it.

On Dec. 11 the voters split, 180 to 180, on allowing CCS to issue a $6.6 million bond to pay for a group of projects that included fixing cracked pavement and sidewalks at both schools, expanding the elementary school parking lot to include a dedicated drop-off lane, new LED lighting, replacing old boilers with a high efficiency propane system and turning the oversized shop class into a music and technology wing. In this case, a tie counts as a defeat for the project. 

To some voters the projects were disparate, to others the cost was too high, and to some, we think, were being bad stewards. 

We understand that no one wants their taxes to go up. New York State already has high property taxes and those taxes are even higher for village residents. We also understand that many property owners no longer have kids in the school system and thus have less reason to vote for school improvements.

Some of these projects can be delayed. Although the old wooden bleachers are wobbly, replacing them with handicapped accessible bleachers is a want more than a need. The same goes for painting lockers, updating auditorium and gym lighting and replacing carpet. A case can even be made that asbestos abatement is unnecessary in the short-term although one accident will certainly change that calculation.

However parts of the project will have to go forward. The drop-off lane at the elementary school is needed. Repaving at the middle/high school is going to be a critical need in the next five years. Lighting at the middle/high school is dangerously bad. A bathroom in the autism room is just a simple kindness than shouldn’t be delayed. The tech corridor is vital if Cooperstown is going to keep up with other area schools.

The sad thing is, taxpayers will pay for these projects anyway. The bond issue would have minimized the cost. The state re-imbursement, 71.8 percent for CCS, isn’t available for individual projects. Which is better, a $20 a year raise in taxes per $100,000 of property now or a steeper raise later?

We realize that the results of the election were skewed by a low turnout because of bad weather. Last Wednesday had a late storm that would have closed the school had it come earlier in the day. Perhaps the result wasn’t a rejection of the project as it was a “perfect storm.”

We certainly hope so. We still endorse this project and we hope the school’s Board of Education will decide in the spring to bring it back up for another vote.