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Schenectady loses out on state aid for low-wealth districts

Monday, April 28, 2014
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Schenectady loses out on state aid for low-wealth districts

I was privileged to serve as a member of the Schenectady School Board from 1987 to 1993 -- which in some ways seems light years away, and in other ways seems like only yesterday. Trying to create a meaningful budget and maintaining quality programs with ever-declining revenues seems like yesterday.

For decades, the Schenectady School District has faced the prospect of developing a budget while having to survive as a "high-need, low-wealth" district. That condition, I fear, has only worsened with time as the size of our district has grown and the proportion of "high-need" children also has increased. So many needs, so little money.

What looked like a major court decision in 2006 requiring the state to create a new formula to assure more money for low-wealth districts lasted for all of two years. According to the Alliance for Quality Education, state aid for 2010-2014 has remained below the levels of 2009 in the wake of the national recession.

The alliance makes a compelling case that low-wealth districts like Schenectady have borne much of the brunt of the fiscal cutbacks. A recent study by Prof. Bruce Baker of Rutgers University found that the 2014 formula allocates $6,320 less per pupil in Schenectady than the 2006 legislation would have called for. I won't even compute that total, since it only emphasizes how much we are losing while Albany congratulates itself on passing an on-time budget.

So now another lawsuit looms on the horizon in September, and one wonders if this one will be enough to force an unsympathetic governor and reluctant Legislature to obey the law. Maybe we need a court-ordered special master to ensure that the state pols comply with the previous court order and resulting state law.

In the interim, I will vote for the proposed budget, recognizing the herculean effort the current Board of Education has made to fulfill its obligation to cobble together a budget that attempts to provide the best education possible to all, and yet recognizes that we as taxpayers are already paying through the nose in property taxes. The bottom line is that the children of this community deserve a fair shake, and we must find a way to give to these children as others provided to our children.

I am also thinking, incidentally, of setting up shop at the capitol below the window of Gov. Cuomo with a great big sign reminding him of his failure to serve the children of Schenectady and other low-wealth districts. A previous Gov. Cuomo was reportedly strongly affected by a state commissioner he fired who began to sell hot dogs right below the governor's window some 25 years ago.

Anyone interested in joining me?

Robert K. Corliss

Schenectady

Schenectady casino: more harm than good

A casino in Schenectady [April 25 Gazette]? No! No! A thousand times no! Have you ever been in the streets behind the casinos in Atlantic City? Derelicts. Beggars. Drunks. Check-cashing storefronts. And the smells!

Couldn't happen in Schenectady? Wanna bet? Maybe not in the immediate vicinity of the proposed casino, with its condos, apartments, etc. But it would be close by.

The minimal amount of money such a venue would bring to Schenectady is not worth destroying what we are trying to rebuild.

We must say no to a casino in Schenectady. After all, we are trying to improve the city, aren't we?

Mary Siegel

Schenectady

Casino should have been added to racino

When will Saratoga racino close? I believe that the Saratoga City Council was short-sighted in not approving casino table gambling in the city [April 25 Gazette].

If and when the operators of the racino get permission to build a "table gaming" casino in another county, what will happen to the racino located a short distance away? Can the area support another casino? I think not. What will happen then? The proper business decision for the operators would be to close the "older" racino in Saratoga and concentrate on the newer casino -- good-bye to a percentage of the racino "profit" to the city, summer visitors to the racino going into the city to spend on shopping and at restaurants, loss of hundreds of racino jobs, loss of the harness track -- probably.

City residences should have been allowed to vote on expanding the racino to include table games. Perhaps the voters would have realized that the racino is on the outer edge of the city, has not created any real traffic, drug or crime problems (that I am aware of), and would be a long-term financial benefit.

The council should be thinking of the entire city population and not the few business owners who think that an expanded racino would hurt their businesses -- perhaps more visitors to the racino would really benefit them. Would I drive to Albany or Troy to gamble at a new casino? Yes.

Would others? Only time will tell.

Frank Longo

Rotterdam

Rowdy revelers bring trouble on themselves

In response to Mr. Don Vanderwarker's April 23 letter regarding the tactics of the Schenectady police at the "celebration" that followed in the vicinity of Union College after the team's wonderful win, I would like to point something out to Mr. Vanderwarker.

No matter the reason, location, state of mind of the person and or people involved, when a police officer gives you a lawful order, the key word here being "lawful," the person on the receiving end of the order is obliged, by law, to do what the officer says.

It has become the cause celebre to thumb your nose at police because you're just having a good time. Rudeness and drinking of alcohol are not reasons to disregard common sense. The next time you find yourself in a rowdy crowd, and a police officer asks you to disperse, do so. That way, you won't find your name and unflattering picture in the newspaper the next day.

Go Union!

James E. Donahue

Scotia

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