Sign In | Create an Account | Welcome, . My Account | Logout | Subscribe | Submit News | Tearsheets | Media Kit | All Access E-Edition | Routes | Home RSS

Plenty of savings there, no one wants to do it

February 9, 2010 - John Stack
Camp Gabriels closed last year. Lyon Mountain and Moriah Shock are scheduled to close through Paterson’s budget. Not too far away is also Ogdensburg which is also slated to close. The closures of these facilities are supposed to save $14.1 million over the next 5 years. Straight up, saving $14.1 million seems like a good idea. But, at what cost? Our area is considered a ‘tourist driven’ economy. But, the ‘hidden economy’ is our prisons. Tourism may drive our economy in the form of hotel rooms and restaurants. But, tourism sure doesn’t create many high paying jobs. What percent of hotel/restaurant workers make $30,000 or more and have health benefits? Very few. How much can these people add back to the economy? They don’t make enough to eat out at our better restaurants. They aren’t spending a lot on homes. They don’t even pay a lot in taxes. Most of the people at the prisons are ale to do this. At Lyon Mountain, over 95% of the 109 listed employees are full time salaried making over $30,000. These are people who go to the restaurants, ski, buy new cars, buy up nice homes. If these people are laid off or transferred, what happens to the local economy? How much of a local impact is this? There will be less need for the small stores and restaurants that serve these workers. People will be laid off there. Much less sales tax and the like will be collected with fewer people making good money. With a decrease in higher wage earners, the local property values will drop (but not taxes!!). There will be fewer people to pay the taxes, therefore raising local taxes. As Moriah Supervisor Tom Scozzafava points out, Moriah Shock was located in Moriah to help the local economy of a poor area. Now, the State will be balancing the budget on the backs of the local population in the areas losing the prisons! And all of these prisons are located in areas where the prisons are an integral part of the local community. Why is the North Country being significantly trampled compared to the rest of the state? Unlike many complainers, I don’t think COs are underpaid. I don’t think they are lazy or shifty. You couldn’t pay me enough to be a CO, and I’m happy we have the ones we have. The bureaucracy though? I’m sure there is fat there to trim. Anyway. But, we need to trim somewhere, right? Any increase in income taxes is not going to happen, and may even be counterproductive. There are about 200,000 state employees under union contracts. Well, no contracts will be opened this year, so there won’t be any savings on wages or benefits there. By agreeing to Tier V Paterson basically promised no layoffs for 2010. Maybe a lag payroll..Again? I have one week lagged right now. I don’t think that will happen. How about lagging like one day? I guess if they can’t save the whole billion up front, no need to look at 200 million. How about some less normal changes? Today, Saranac School district is voting on a capital improvement project (again). This time its about $17 million dollars. They say 80 percent of the money is going for technology and energy saving boilers and such. All well and good. But to me, 17 million is a real lot of money for a school with fewer than 2000 students for just capital improvements. I read in the paper how the biggest selling points are the savings in heating (good!) and how little it will affect a typical tax bill for taxpayers. Hmmm. What taxpayers? Oh, Saranac School district taxpayers, not New York taxpayers. Basically, the rest of us are coming up with about 16 million to subsidize Saranac. Why does the state subsidize 90 percent of building projects (which can include athletic fields, stadiums, etc)? Its understandable when a school is seeing really big enrollment increases or if the school burns down (like my high school did). But why should the rest of New York taxpayers be subsidizing SO MUCH for voluntary capital projects? For Saranac School there really is no incentive to not spend, spend spend the rest of our money. If the aid was 50%, 60% or 75%, the districts would be forced to really decide if they needed all of the improvements. As a taxpayer in Saranac, of course you want your kids to have the best, and that the state would basically cover the energy efficiency programs. But, by covering less, the state could make sure that only needed improvements were undertaken. Also, I hope the irony doesn’t escape my readers. I believe Lyon Mountain is in Saranac School District – the State will spend 16 million on a school project, but close Lyon Mountain prison (and 3 more) to save $14.1 million… A second area which is a sacred cow is binding arbitration. When school districts are working on a contract with the teachers, many administrators will say ‘well, we chose to settle, as we might have had to got to arbitration, and an arbiter might look at other local salaries and conclude that our school district needs to be paid like them. I’ve never really understood this. If a district can’t afford to pay higher salaries/budgets why should they be forced to by an arbitrator? The Saranac Lake contract was settled at a rate that seemed out of line when the awful state of the economy is taken into consideration, but Superintendent Goldman even said that (and I am paraphrasing) the school sometimes has to go by what neighboring districts get. Why? Will there be an exodus of teachers from Saranac Lake somehow choosing to get jobs in Tupper Lake or Lake Placid?(as if there would be a lot of openings). I think there should be more power invested in the school superintendents at setting contract terms rather than on a part time voluntary school board going up against union negotiators as well as the threat of arbitration. Just some things to think about.


Article Comments

No comments posted for this article.

Post a Comment

You must first login before you can comment.

*Your email address:
Remember my email address.


I am looking for:
News, Blogs & Events Web