Decisions about public school funding and leadership in GreeneLand were made last Tuesday by voters. Majorities of GreeneLanders who took part in five school districts’ elections made favorable decisions on proposed outlays for 2008-09 totaling $136 million. The voters accordingly endorsed budgets that anticipate outlays amounting, on average, to about $1850 per enrolled student. Margins of support for the proposed budgets in the county’s five districts were substantial. At the same time, all incumbent school board members who sought re-election were returned to office.
Those results were similar to what occurred in most school districts of the mid-Hudson region. In all but five—Hyde Park, Marlboro, Pine Plains, Walkill, and the big district of Kingston—participating voters supported the budgets that were proposed and the incumbent board members who sought re-election.
Participants in GreeneLand’s school district elections amounted, as usual, to a fraction of eligible voters. Turnout also was substantially lower in the most populous district, Catskill Central, than in the others. Thus, 828 votes were cast at Catskill High School’s gymnasium, while 1016 were cast at the Coxsackie-Athens polling station, 925 in Cairo-Durham, and 839 in Greenville (along with 346 in Hunter-Tannersville and 309 in Windham-Ashland-Jewett).
The low Catskill turnout could be due in some measure to the abnormal paucity of publicity in local news organs.
Support for the proposed budget also was low in Catskill relative to other Districts. The Yeas and Nays, as reported in The Daily Freeman and The Daily Mail, were 459-369 (Catskill), 611-403 (Coxsackie-Athens), 589-336 (Cairo-Durham), 534-305 (Greenville), 239-107 (Hunter-Tannersville), and an overwhelming 252-57 in Windham-Ashland-Jewett. The latter result, as noted by reporter Michael Ryan, reflects durable local sentiment. In the past four district elections, voters have cast 1187 votes in favor, and only 282 against, proposed Windham-Ashland-Jewett public school budgets.
Seeing Greene’s intrepid number crunchers have compiled figures that serve to illuminate aspects of public schooling in GreeneLand.
- Enrollments: Catskill, 1600; Coxsackie-Athens, 1440; Cairo-Durham, 1670; Greenville, 1440; Windham-Ashland-Jewett, 450; Hunter-Tannersville, 479.
- Budgets (as approved): Catskill, $37.4million; Coxsackie-Athens, $25million; Cairo-Durham, $26million; Greenville, $26million; W-A-J, $10.6million; Hunter-Tannersville, $12.24million.
- Cost per pupil: Catskill, $20,800; Coxsackie-Athens, $15,600; Cairo-Durham, $15,000; Greenville, $18,000; W-A-J, $23,500; Hunter-Tannersville, $25,300.
- State aid: Catskill, $16million; Coxsackie-Athens, $9.3million; Cairo-Durham, $14.6million; Greenville, $11.5million; W-A-J, $2.5million; Hunter-Tannersville, $2.5million.
- State aid as portion of district budget: Catskill, 43%; Coxsackie-Athens, 37.2%; Cairo-Durham, 58.4%; Greenville, 44.6%; W-A-J, 28%; Hunter-T’ville, 21%.
Those figures indicate that the costs of public education in GreeneLand’s various districts, viewed from the standpoint of outlays per pupil, differ substantially; they range from $15,000 to $25,300. The contrasts also show an odd pattern: while outlays per pupil are heaviest in the two small-enrollment districts, the biggest district, Catskill, comes next. Moreover, the districts differ in the proportions of their budgets that are funded by State (and Federal) allocations as distinct from local property taxes. These differences are due to, among many other variables, variations in their proportions of Special-Needs-classified students, who quality for extra doses of State aid.
Meanwhile, with regard to the governors of GreeneLand’s school districts, incumbents Andrew Jones and Karen Haas were returned to office on the Catskill School Board, as were incumbents Joseph Garlands and Joseph Cardinale in Coxsackie-Athens (with Michael Petromale succeeding the retiring Leo Palmateer), William Alfeld and Susan Kusminsky in Cairo-Durham (joined by Carl Kohrs and Debra Armstrong), Gregory Lampman and Rosanne Moore in Greenville, and Gerry Loucks in Hunter-Tannersville.
Catskill’s election was preceded, as usual, by the distribution to all district households of a Newsletter that describes, and indirectly urges support for, the proposed budget. The document’s back page customarily is devoted to statements about (and from) the candidates for school board offices. The 2008 Newsletter contained no statements about two of the five candidates. According to editorial notes, no statements from those candidates had been supplied. According to one of those candidates, no word about providing statements came from the District office in advance of the deadline. At the pre-election “Meet the Candidates” session at Catskill High School, the matter of the ‘missing’ statements was not addressed. The two losing candidates, Evan Ulscht and Ernest Armistead, also were the Newsletter’s two ‘missing’ candidates.