When budget cuts, a tax cap and a flood collide

Even before rains from Irene and Lee flooded Schoharie, schools in the valley “were in a terrible spot,” Martin Messner testified last night. Here’s a link to the Times-Union article.

Messner teaches health and physical education and leads the Schoharie CTA, which used to have more than 125 members 10 years go and now has 83 full time teachers thanks to eliminated programs, including Advanced Placement.

The steady reduction in funding — $800,000 in 2010 and $1.4 million for this year — pushed more responsibility on the rural taxpayers and a very limited tax base.  A 2 percent tax cap means the district can only raise $176,000 next year, and that’s only if voters approve the budget.

Then the rains came, and devastated 30 counties. Here’s the question Messner asked at a School Cuts Hurt event in downtown Albany, “How long does it take for a flooded community to recover with a 2% property tax cap?” Here’s some of the specifics:

  • Just in the town of Schoharie more than 275 homes were under 5- to 8-feet of water.
  • Almost all businesses in the town of Schoharie were flooded out.
  • Over 700 homes in Schoharie’s school district were damaged.
  • 142 Schoharie students are homeless until they can return to their homes.

The lost tax revenue is anticipated to be massive, Messner said, noting “Who is going to pay 5,000-6,000 in property taxes on a property that has been condemned?”

It’s not just Schoharie. Towns of Wright, Central Bridge, Esperance and Sloansville were also hard hit. Millions have been lost in agriculture, millions more in damages to our roads and infrastructure, over $15 million to Schoharie’s county office buildings alone.

Messner  was asked last night and because he is asked What do you need in Schoharie? every day, he’s got his answer ready:

What Schoharie needs is for the state to pass a millionaire’s tax and invest in our education so that we can recover, restore our money and the money that was stolen from all our schools and fund education in a fair and responsible way, not with arbitrary tax caps.  I really hope the state and our Governor are listening, because the very future of Schoharie and all its students is in dire jeopardy.

The other thing Schoharie needs, for those homes that remain, is insulation. The first floors that were flooded had to be gutted to the studs. The Schoharie Teachers’ Association has set aside $10,000 to purchase insulation.  That, with additional funding, labor and logistical support from the United Federation of Teachers, NYSUT and other locals all around the state means they will be able to insulate between 60-100 homes prior to the start of winter, so people can at least keep their pipes from freezing.

If this sound like something you would like to help with, here’s a flier that explains a lot of the information.

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