It sounds like a deal Worcester Central School can't resist:
Selling a tiny 1.5-acre plot for a princely $214,000.
But business people and some school officials themselves worry that the sale could fracture Worcester's fragile Main Street economy.
School board members agreed earlier this summer to sell the land, which lies just southeast of the school bus garage, to Family Dollar, a national chain of small supermarkets.
State law dictates that the school couldn't put the sale up for a public vote, which board members wanted. The public responded, however, with petitions containing at least 29 signatures--10 percent of the last school vote--and the sale will be on the ballot in a special election October 2.
"We were hoping that would happen," Superintendent Bill Diamond said of the petitions and pending vote.
School officials didn't want to make the decision themselves because the issue is so delicate: A windfall for the school versus downtown economic damage.
Mr. Diamond said the $214,000 would help the school take a step towards financial recovery.
Heavily dependent on state aid, Worcester's seen aid decline over the past few years. The district has used money from its savings in fund balance to make up the difference.
But because there's only so much money in the fund balance, continuing to take money from it "undermines the school district," Mr. Diamond said.
The sale, he added, "would be a move towards fiscal security."
Mr. Diamond, however, is also sensitive to the business community. Family Dollar is not just a dollar store but sells groceries, clothing, household items and more.
That variety, backed by the buying power of a national chain, could greatly affect downtown Worcester.
"I'd pull out immediately," said Bill Vajda, owner of the Worcester Market, which has a popular deli and butcher counter.
Family Dollar, he added, apparently doesn't carry meat, "but then there wouldn't be a meat market in town."
Hal Crispell of the Joseph Kenyon Insurance Agency said his business would be affected only slightly.
"But it would wipe out the struggling businesses we have," he said.
Besides the potential for losing businesses, there's the possibility of losing tax base, Mr. Crispell added.
"The $200,000 is a drop in the bucket compared to the harm there would be," he said. "We'd lose much more than we'd gain."
John Turner of Country Boy Realty agreed.
"The little bit of tax break would help for one year," Mr. Turner said. "That's minute compared to what could happen in the long run."
Dennis Dedek of The Center, a convenience store and deli, pointed out that Worcester's been more fortunate than nearby small towns.
Schenevus is closer to Oneonta, and Richmondville's closer to Cobleskill, Mr. Dedek said. Worcester is just far enough away from those larger markets to support small businesses.
Family Dollar, he said, "would be the kiss of death for local enterprise. Everybody here is struggling. This would push them over the edge."
Only Bruce Hollenbeck offered a slight positive spin on Family Dollar, saying it would bring in jobs. But he immediately tempered that statement.
"As long as it doesn't kill what we already have," Mr. Hollenbeck said. "I wouldn't want that."
Neither do school board members. That's why they pushed for a public vote, with some of them carrying petitions around the district.
"I certainly understand," said school board President Sean Ralph, who took a petition around town. "This is a huge decision for the board and a huge decision for the community.
"That's all the more reason to get everyone to weigh in."