The real neglect must be placed on state’s doorstep

Facing dire financial circumstances, Johnstown’s school superintendent Dr. Patricia Kilburn predicted higher school taxes while holding out the hope of closing a second grade school because of lower enrollment.

But what seemed lacking in her presentation were major structural changes yet, as often happens, taxpayers are faced with state mandates which prevent changes. But here are a few possibilities which could help economize:

Since the district supports employee Social Security, one wonders if retirees could not be covered by Medicare which would supplant the expensive lifetime health care insurance which can last for decades.

Corporations have mostly dispensed with lifetime pensions — some big companies have declared bankruptcy to get out from under those obligations and replaced them with 401K plans wherein the employee can design his own retirement. While this can be chancy, it would surely save much for the district.

Dental insurance seems to be excessive coverage, one which most taxpayers cannot afford.

The School Tax Relief and Enhanced STAR programs, which benefit the elderly on fixed incomes, are also state mandated. You wonder when grown children with their beloved grandchildren will start moving back in to take advantage of those tax breaks.

But whatever happens, the people will pay because they have a fine school system and are proud of it.

Yet as I was leaving the high school, I noticed a large parking lot had not been plowed, a sign of neglect or economizing. But leading the taxpayers into a financial bind with a depleted fund balance seems a more obvious neglect.

However, Dr. Kilburn said state aid for schools has been dwindling, meaning Albany expects districts to abide by the mandates but passing the expense down to the schools, itself awkward for a district where half the students are from economically disadvantaged families. In that case the real neglect must be placed at the state’s doorstep.