Indian Lake Central School
Tuesday, Feb. 6, found both Indian Lake town and school board members in a rare joint meeting to foster greater cross-communication, united thinking and a concerted effort in meeting the challenges faced in growing the town and enriching the lives of its residents.
President of the Indian Lake Board of Education Jon Voorhees opened the meeting by saying that, ”This meeting comes at a very opportune time for our school district in that we have recently been notified that state aid for our district will be decreasing 16.2 percent, translating into $730 per student. I believe that the Town Board could be constructive in helping us do a good job for the taxpayer without short changing the kids”.
ILBOE members are perplexed because, in the presentation of his executive budget, Governor Andrew Cuomo pointed to an $889 million dollar (4.4 percent) increase in education aid, or $330 per student, statewide.
The decreases in aid are not limited to the Indian Lake Central School District because, according to Superintendent Mark Brand, schools across Hamilton County are facing 13.8 percent decreases in state aid.
“We have done everything the state has asked, including non-funded mandates” Brand said. “Now we face this loss and I see it as a major betrayal by the governor and the state that will have negative effects for the school, its students and our community.”
Superintendent Brand then handed out a copy of a letter dated February 4, 2013, that he wrote to school community members.
In it Brand outlines the entire issue in depth and calls for the community to form a united front in contacting state legislators, demanding “action that will not only restore our school aid but provide the increase the governor told us we could expect.”
Jon Voorhees voiced a request that members of both boards attend meetings of various community organizations to present the situation and the potential threats it poses to the well-being of the students and the community, and added that a united coalition to approach state legislators should be formed.
Superintendent Brand alluded to the fact that there are some $230 million in funds available to legislators, a portion of which could be directed toward county and district education aid shortfalls if the community presented a united and well-orchestrated approach to legislators.
“I agree that no one will want to move here without a school,” said Town Supervisor Brian Wells. “ Look at what happened in Hague. As a board, we are willing to do anything we can to help.”
With the agreement to attend various community organization meetings together, the two boards went on to discuss other ways to contribute to stemming the effects of the shortfall of state funding by increasing revenue.
Discussions initially surrounded the status of efforts to attract foreign students and Superintendent Brand reported that all the necessary steps and documents have been taken and submitted, with the approval to do so “pending.”
Councilwoman Sally Stanton then remarked, ”For me, seeing a dark school is unacceptable.” She went on to suggest that “the school be looked at as a community center to be used by adults to support the school in off hours.”
Stanton pointed to her belief that if this were done more frequently, people would become more attached to the school while revenues are raised to offset decreases in aid or fuel program enrichment at the school.
“That is, in fact, one of our board goals,” Voorhees responded. “The school is open and welcoming to this.”
School Board Vice President David Harrington and Principal Dave Snide both suggested that it would be best to canvas the community to discover what its members wanted available in the way of activities and adult education so that attendance for the offered community center activities would be sufficient, making them worthwhile for the community and the school.
There was mention made that the community is invited to attend BOE monthly meeting and present the board with ideas for activities and courses that they would like to see offered at a school-centered community program. All in attendance agreed.
Community members at the meeting suggested that an open house tour of the school on a given date might be a way to kick-off the development of a more enriched community center program.
There were discussions about taking advantage of the Distance Learning Center for offering adult education courses after school hours, the use of areas of the school such as the library and the Science Lab for business and organization meetings.
The school board was extremely open to more community use of the facilities by community organizations and private party users as long as it did not increase the costs to the school and that rules surrounding the use of the school facilities were not infringed.
Discussions ensued about opportunities for use of shared resources of the town and the district being used to address needs such as the poor condition of the parking lot on the Crow Hill Road side of the school.
Councilman John Valentine also suggested that the town garage and schoolbus garage might want to join forces in pursuing a grant for a bio-fuel boiler that could heat both facilities as they stood side by side.
Valentine said that a wood chip boiler would have the added advantage of generating revenue that would help spark industry locally and keep the money in the community.
Both boards agreed to send representatives to a facility in Lake Placid to further investigate such technology and its viability for the two facilities.
Superintendent Brand closed the meeting by commenting, ”If we are not successful in getting more money freed up from the state, we could be looking at a 7 percent tax levy increase. I will recommend to the board that we not cut any more services and resources from this district and its students. We will have to invest in our school and our kids. I suggest that we write Senator Farley, even Betty Little who has been such a great friend over the years. Even Assemblyman Butler. There is money out there that can be gotten for our district through our senators.”
The letter Mark Brand wrote to school community members can be viewed by clicking on “news – Our State Aid Falls Off The Cliff” on the district’s website www.ilcsd.org.