Sen. Seward gives input on schools, state budget

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By Joe Moskowitz
Chicken, and rice pilaf with a side of politics were the order of the day at Roxbury Central School. New York State Senator James Seward stopped by for lunch at RCS on Thursday. He was already going to speak to two classes, but Superintendent Tom O’Brien decided that since Senator Seward was coming to town anyway, he would ask him to share a meal with some senior citizens. It wasn’t just any meal. It was the annual senior citizens lunch prepared by the RCS family/consumer service class.

Teacher Mary Mac Naught says RCS started hosting these lunches before she started 31 years ago. Back when it was still called Home Economics. She says this is the crowning achievement of the student’s year. There are 14 kids in the class. They have specific roles, including who is responsible for the rolls. Two kids were in charge of chicken. Two made the rice arrangements. One took care of the cream puffs. And so on.

The kids look forward to it, as do the grown-ups. This year about 65 seniors from Grand Gorge and Roxbury attended the event. They not only ate their fill but they also gave Senator Seward an earful. The most common complaint was about taxes.

Senator Seward listened carefully. These people can vote. He has been in the state senate since 1986, but is just now representing this area. His newly created 51st Senatorial District sprawls from the Finger Lakes to the Capital Region and down to the Mid-Hudson Valley.

Then it was off to visit some people who aren’t ready to vote, third graders. Seward gave them some lessons in government. Not wanting to take either the credit or the blame, he was quick to point out to one student that he is a state senator and has nothing to do with Washington. He then read them “The Beekeeper.”

The Senator made the trip to Roxbury Thursday because of Agriculture Awareness Week, which was actually in March. He delayed his visit because of work on the state budget.
After reading to the third graders, Senator Seward met with a group of high school students.
Senator Seward may be new to this area, but he is very familiar with Roxbury Central School.
His father’s sister, Dora Fowler, worked there, retiring in 2011. “Aunt” Dora retired as New York State’s oldest teacher after working at RCS for more than six decades.

Margaretville issues
New York State Senator James Seward is often at odds with Governor Andrew Cuomo. The Oneonta Republican is a very outspoken critic of the SAFE Act, Governor Cuomo’s sweeping gun control legislation. Seward’s district includes Illion. That’s where Remington Firearms has a large facility and employs about 1,100 people. But Senator Seward is very happy with the 2013-14 New York State budget.

Senator Seward is pleased that for the first time since 1984, three consecutive budgets have been approved on time and appear to be balanced. The last time that happened Cuomo’s father, Mario Cuomo, was governor for two of those years.

Senator Seward says the state’s new budget is a “very pro-family” spending plan. It offers tax cuts and credits to middle-class families. He says it will also help businesses in New York State.
He is particularly pleased with an increase in aid to the state’s public schools. He pointed out that because of more state aid, Roxbury Central School, where he was speaking last Thursday, will be able to have a budget that falls below the two-percent tax cap. But he concedes that not all districts will benefit. When asked by the Catskill Mountain News about Margaretville Central School, which gets a lower percentage of state aid than other schools in Delaware County, Seward said he was aware of the MCS situation. MCS is considered a “ Wealthy” district because of the assessed value of its real estate, despite 58 percent of its students being eligible for free or reduced price meals.
Seward said that he will arrange a meeting with MCS Superintendent Tony Albanese to see if something can be done to remedy the apparent flaw in the state aid formula.

Albanese told The News that he is very pleased that Senator Seward has taken interest in Margaretville’s plight. He says he has already sent the Senator letter and plans to make a follow up phone call.