May 14, 2008: Think about it when casting your vote

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To The Editor:

Nobody enjoys paying school taxes, and for those who don’t have children in the system, it must be particularly painful. But until our politicians find another way to fund our schools (which we’d appreciate), we’re stuck with it. All the more reason to know what’s happening with school taxes in the Onteora Central School District.

The incumbent school board’s plans to close an(other) elementary school – Phoenicia now, Woodstock later – will not bring school taxes down. There has never been any such promise.

The board plans to take any savings from closing elementary schools and putting local people (teachers, admin, maintenance etc.) out of work, and apply those savings to a grades 5-8 middle school in Boiceville that is unpopular with the majority of parents, teachers and students alike.

The cost of the new projects will be $70 million and up. A 20-year bond, at 4.25 percent interest will see debt interest repayments of over 50 percent. We borrow $70 million, we pay back $105 million. Even with maximum state aid , not guaranteed, we borrow $42 million and pay back $63 million. That’s anywhere from $21 million and up paid out of our school taxes, diverted away from employees who spend money and mostly live in the community and straight into the pockets of the banking system.

While some school repairs are necessary, the scope and cost of this project is as unwieldy as it is unpopular. Remember the Ulster County Jail? How did you feel about your taxes financing that catastrophe? What makes anyone believe a $70 million school project will stay within budget and on schedule?

To those who have seen their school taxes drastically increased due to complex and unfortunate legislation actions, please remember that those are not within the scope of an annual school budget, which typically forces a tax levy increase of around two to three percent a year. It would be nice if school taxes never increased, but it would be foolish to imagine them decreasing every year. All of us struggling financially should bear in mind that it’s the high cost of oil forcing up gas prices, heating fuel, food costs etc., not the difference between a one percent school tax levy and a three percent school tax levy.

Closing thriving elementary schools to build an unwanted middle school, taking tax dollars out of the community and giving them to banks, making our community less attractive to newcomers and inspiring a decrease in our property values: that’s what forces people to sell their homes.

Please think about all of this when you vote on May 20 in the Onteora Central School Board election. And if you wish to see your school taxes kept under control, within the community, to benefit the community, and not spent on vast projects we can’t afford, then please vote for Donna Flayhan, Laurie Osmond, Ralph Legnini and Ann McGillicuddy, lines 2-5.

Tony Fletcher,
Mt Tremper