Students make budget appeal to legislators
SCHUYLER COUNTY—The Schuyler County legislature heard from two students representing “Save Our Schools” at the regular meeting of the legislature held Monday, Feb. 13. Students Alex Rundle and Rob Rondinaro spoke to the legislature about the 15 positions being cut in the Watkins Glen school district, how budget cuts hinder education and what their organization is trying to do about it.
Rundle explained that S.O.S. formed when the student council learned of the 15 position cuts set to occur in their district. When it was determined that the student sentiment was overwhelmingly against the cuts, a committee was created to further discuss the development, which led to the creation of S.O.S. The group is concerned that the position cuts will also result in lost programs and fewer educational opportunities. The fear, Rondinaro said, is that the cuts will “harm our education,” and that in the future “there will only be four classes.”
The group is attempting to influence politicians at the state, federal and local levels in an effort to curb or even roll back funding cuts to educational institutions. “Our goal is to inform, educate and hopefully cause some change,” said Rundle. They are currently drafting letters to local representatives and to Gov. Andrew Cuomo expressing their position on educational cuts and explaining why they feel continued funding is necessary. “Our group may be small,” said Rundle, “but it is organized and passionate about our cause.” The next S.O.S. meeting is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 16 at the high school. Rundle and Rondinaro urged the legislators and other interested members of the public to attend.
In other business:
• Chairman Dennis Fagan addressed the study concerning consolidating the village police department with the sheriff’s office. “The purpose of the study is to see if it is feasible to merge the village police department with the sheriff’s office,” said Fagan. Watkins Glen is currently in the process of trying to obtain grant funding to pay for the study and the county’s support is a prerequisite. Fagan explained that the village is the lead applicant and will bear all local costs associated with the study.
• The legislature voted to sign a letter supporting the New York State Association of Counties in their request for mandate relief from the state. Legislator Glenn Larison said he was pleased with some of Gov. Cuomo’s recent remarks acknowledging the mandate situation. “It is a step in the right direction,” said Fagan, “there is an awful lot still to be done before we have meaningful mandate relief.”
• Legislator Barbara Halpin read a letter from the Rev. Michael Hartney discussing the local Habitat for Humanity effort. The letter explained that progress was being made toward the first Habitat house in the county. So far the organization has raised $10,000 with commitments for additional donations once a property has been secured. Habitat for Humanity meets monthly on the last Wednesday of the month at 7 p.m. in the Human Services Complex.
• The legislature has established a committee to address redistricting. Fagan said the purpose is to “develop a plan where legislators are representing equal populations.” Fagan thanked Mark Rondinaro for suggesting an approach based on the system used in Orleans County. The committee discussed a number of different alternatives, explained Fagan, and will continue the discussion at their next meeting in March.
• New County Attorney Geoffrey Rossi was officially welcomed by the legislature. Rossi was hired to fill the position after James Coleman retired and Dennis Morris was elected County Judge. The legislator also passed a resolution to appoint Vicki Perazzini as Rossi’s confidential secretary.
• At the resolution review committee held on the Wednesday prior to the regular legislative session, the legislators discussed the Harbor Hotel’s plan to host an Ice Festival. Administrator Tim O’Hearn said that the hotel has been doing the same event at their Portland, Maine facility for 10 years and it now draws around 10,000 people. “This is consistent with our plans to develop more winter events,” said O’Hearn. The weekend-long Ice Festival plans to include fireworks from the pier on Feb. 17.