$6 million explained
TO THE EDITOR: Recently, residents of the Town of Plattsburgh have been regaled with stories citing the presence of a $6 million surplus within the Town of Plattsburgh coffers.
Demands have been made by some that this money be swept from various funds and distributed to the taxpayers.
I want to take this opportunity to set the record straight. Initially, members of the Town Council took the position that by encouraging citizens to attend actual budget meetings between board members and department heads those attending would learn the hard truths of crafting budgets in today’s economic environment. Unfortunately, that was not the case. Instead of studying the facts and coming to understand the consequences of knee-jerk solutions, some persist with their demand even when it is pointed out that such disbursements would be illegal.
The bulk of the $6 million lies in special-district funds, which can only be applied to projects specific to those accounts, such as Water, Sewer, Groundwater and Lighting districts. The town is barred by law from mixing those funds with general-fund revenues.
Finally, in this misguided rush to access these funds, these individuals ignore the fact that the Town of Plattsburgh has more than $800 million of infrastructure. About half of that has been depreciated. That statistic indicates that $400 million of that infrastructure, while in place, has exceeded its life expectancy.
When one compares $6 million on hand with $400 million in emerging replacement needs, the $6 million doesn’t seem very large. It is vital that these funds remain targeted for future capital projects.
The Town Council should not compound these problems by “kicking the can down the road.” We are still digging our town out of the consequences of that mentality.
Town of Plattsburgh
TO THE EDITOR: Plattsburgh School District and board need input, transparency, communication, accountability, financial sustainability and bold leadership.
With enrollment down 10 percent, downsizing is overdue. Staff cuts in support operations have created hardship for those most vulnerable, while teaching staff abound with too many half-full classes (10:1 average ratio). Adding pre-K and afterschool programs that were already provided in the community was imprudent. What next, a senior center?
Granting top administrators $6,000 bonus raises was blatant excess. Fearing vested interests’ disfavor, they rejected introduction of cost-efficient virtual learning. Not increasing CSEA’s 5 percent health-care cost to 8 percent was beyond reckless. The board’s indulgence of unions with unsustainable benefits has reached beyond $97,157,236 “accrued liability for benefits.” (www.unitedforthekids.org)
Failure to remove substandard teachers has directly impacted assessment scores, resulting in two NYSED mandates: a new teacher evaluation, which is cumbersome and still defers termination of problem teachers, and another mandated assessment to assure student competency.
Policies were already in place to address these long-standing deficiencies, but inadequately handled. Instead of sending a message to administrators/teachers to correct these problems, the board rewarded staff with salary/benefit increases.
Our children should be the top priority, not be shortchanged by weak policies and passivity. When results are less than satisfactory, those delivering services must be held accountable.
Whenever the board is asked to explain/justify, they do not respond.
Face it, the old smoke and mirrors show won’t work anymore. Instead, everything must be on the table with all parties involved in open communication to develop a plan balancing public education’s primary mission with fiscal solvency. It is a given that some pain will be in the equation, but also some challenging opportunities to improve and re-energize.