On the subject of declining pupil population in the Kingston City School District, here are the facts. From 2001 to 2012, enrollment fell from 8,237 to 6,324. That’s a total of 1,913 students, or 23.2 percent. Four separate studies commissioned by the district — the Stanton Leggett Association study, The FACTS study of 2007, Dr. Paul Seversky’s elementary school study of 2010 and a study ordered by former board president James Shaughnessy — all predict falling a pupil population over the next 10 years. Also, the district, citing the decreasing need for space, has in the past two years closed four elementary schools: Meagher, Sophie Finn, Anna Devine and Zena.
What’s happening in the schools is happening in the community. The City of Kingston’s population is down from about 29,000 in 1992 to about 22,000 today. Foreclosures and property tax defaults are on the increase and six of Ulster County’s 20 towns have average incomes below the national income poverty level. This is a depressed area.
So with all the facts and studies pointing toward a continuing economic downturn with a continuing decline in pupil population, how does the school board and its president, Matthew McCoy, conclude that renovating the Kingston High School complex and adding 181,400 square feet of unneeded additional school room space at a cost of $137.5 million is the answer?
Let’s assume that President McCoy is right and we spend $137.5 million for the “pupils who deserve new school buildings.” And let’s assume that the deserving pupils get their new school buildings and that their parents lose their homes to the excessive taxes that they are required to pay for the new school buildings. At the end of the school day, where do those pupils go if their homes have been foreclosed on?
We have got to become far more sensitive to where the tax dollars are coming from. Kingston has a household median income of $45,037, with very little upside in sight. With the highest property taxes in New York State, new school buildings are not going to attract new businesses.
McCoy says “the board will focus on winning voter approval to spend $137.5 million in a special referendum vote December 10.” December 10? How many voters will come out on December 10? Why isn’t the special referendum vote held on the general election date of November 5 so that all the voters get a chance to vote on it? Oh! I get it — the referendum vote date is for a few select voters, like district teachers and families. It’s all about controlling the vote and assuring the referendum passes. Why would the district want all the taxpayers to vote? That could defeat this unnecessary referendum.
The referendum is Tuesday, December 10. Please mark this date on your calendar and get out to vote.
Charles Landi, Kingston