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Dougherty: Schools at ‘crisis point’

December 17, 2009
By JOEL DiTATA, The Leader-Herald

NORTHVILLE - Northville Central School District Superintendent Kathy Dougherty has written to state officials asking for relief from either or both of the recent financial challenges facing the district.

In a letter this week to Gov. David Paterson and several state legislators, Dougherty asked them to take "swift action" to help cover the $326,000 owed to the district by the Hudson River-Black River Regulating District and to reconsider Paterson's plan to delay 10 percent of state aid payments to school districts, which would present another $23,000 setback for Northville.

"We are at a crisis point in our operations and will soon be forced to reduce programming and services for our students," Dougherty wrote. Her letter reiterated remarks from a late November letter from the Committee of Great Sacandaga Lake School District Superintendents addressed to state officials, asking for relief from any state source -executive, legislative or judicial - in light of the lake districts' double crisis.

Dougherty's letter urged Paterson and legislators to "give us some breathing room to absorb your 10 percent deferral" in light of the HRBRRD shortfall. The regulating district has said it cannot afford to pay its local school tax debts because of a court decision earlier this year that blocked its collection of revenue from several power companies.

Dougherty said the state aid delay, coupled with the regulating district shortfall, is like "pouring salt in a wound." She said she will continue to push for relief from the state.

"This is a kind of effort where you continue to keep going," she said Wednesday in an interview with The Leader-Herald.

State Sen. Hugh T. Farley, R-Niskayuna, said Wednesday he is working on behalf of the Great Sacandaga Lake-area school districts to help them stay in the black.

"I will do anything I can," Farley said. He said the governor and the state comptroller's office have not responded to his messages requesting a conference about the state aid situation.

Farley said for Northville and other Great Sacandaga Lake-area school districts, the combination of delayed state aid and the HRBRRD shortfall presents a "double-whammy" emergency.

He said the comptroller's office may be able to come up with a resolution allowing the HRBRRD to borrow money to pay its debts to the school districts.

On Oct. 13, the regulating district's Board of Directors voted to defer payments of the district's 2009 taxes owed to the school districts. The decision followed a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia that changed the regulating district's ability to collect fees from various hydropower companies affected by the district's control of Great Sacandaga Lake water levels.

The regulating district owes roughly $1.2 million to six school districts: Broadalbin-Perth, Hadley-Luzerne, Mayfield, Northville and Wells and Edinburg.

The court ruling resulted in a revenue shortfall of nearly $4 million for the regulating district, which normally has a $5.4 million operating budget for the Hudson River area.

Dougherty said "drastic cuts" may have to be made if the funding issues cannot be resolved soon, but she hopes it will not come to that.

Joel DiTata covers rural Fulton County news. He can be reached by e-mail at ruralnews@leaderherald.com.

 
 

 

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