C-R gets thumbs-up on budget plan


By Patsy Nicosia

Parents and teachers turned out Monday night to support Cobleskill-Richmondville's plan for a seven-percent tax levy hike next year.
And that support was evident after an audience of nearly 100 saw what cuts would come if C-R kept the levy increase at 2.7 percent, the state-allowed limit.
Reflecting on deep cuts made a year ago, school board members decided last week to seek public backing for a budget that would not cut so deeply next year.
C-R is one of the very few districts in the area seeking to exceed the state limit.
Monday's meeting showed what cuts would come to get the increase down to 2.7 percent:
Modified sports, four varsity sports, two music teachers, the remaining business teacher, orchestra, a librarian, a maintenance worker, family rooms at Radez and Ryder schools, music lessons, business classes and more.
"That's the stuff that makes our school our school," said 25-year teacher Deb Fletcher, endorsing the higher levy increase.
Superintendent Lynn Macan said the decision to go with the higher seven-percent hike balanced "what we want for our kids and the ability to pay."
Keeping the levy increase at seven percent would raise a tax bill on a house assessed at $90,000 about $145 in Cobleskill and $118 in Richmondville, Ms. Macan said.
She emphasized that those were estimates and were likely to change with swings in assessments and equalization rates.
But those estimates sat well with most in the audience.
"That increase is an investment," said parent Jennifer Rightmyer. "Cutting now affects our future."
If C-R keeps cutting, "What will it look like in five years?" Ms. Rightmyer added.
Parent Valerie Lape-Handy said her teenage daughter may not appreciate the higher budget now.
"But in five years, she'll be thankful that she came from a community that supported her," she said.
Another parent, Samara Davis, argued that families move to the area because of Cobleskill-Richmondville schools.
"They don't come for jobs," Ms. Davis said. "There are no jobs. They come for the schools. If the school district falls apart, there will be nothing here.
"Whatever community I live in, I'm happy to pay taxes. It helps the next generation."
Answering claims that a higher levy increase may hurt seniors, parent Amanda Hantho argued otherwise.
"We can't let our K-12 kids suffer," she said. "Nobody's going to lose their house over this."
Also supporting the higher increase, other speakers suggested C-R look at items to cut in order to reinstate programs cut last year--and still stay within the seven-percent hike.
A change in her family's health insurance was shocking at first, said parent Dawn Fiorillo, until she learned that coverage was the same but the price was lower. C-R employee unions might be encouraged to change to a cheaper insurance plan at no loss in coverage, she said.
While most speakers supported the increase or offered suggestions, not all backed the hike.
Resident Horst Fierek said the board should look for volunteers to help with school programs in order to cut costs without cutting programs.
Another resident, Earl Gaskill, said the increase was too much.
"Going up seven percent, you want everything," he told the school board. "The senior citizens, you're putting it to us folks."
Closing the meeting after an hour, board President Bruce Tryon said support is essential for the May 15 public vote.
"This board is committed to seven percent," Mr. Tryon said. "We need to get out the vote and get this passed."