Clarkstown/Nanuet School Merger – A Modest Proposal

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REDUCE NANUET SCHOOL TAXES 23%
A SCHOOL MERGER OF NANUET AND CLARKSTOWN
WIN WIN SOLUTION

Jim Flynn – Nanuet, New York

To the Editor of Rockland Voice

The Clarkstown Central School District (CCSD) has several problems. The student base is declining from a high of 9,473 in 2006 to 8,467 this year and it is projected that the number of students will decline further to 7,254 by 2023.

The School Buildings in Clarkstown are in desperate need of top to bottom renovations. The last Capital Improvement Bond for $200 million dollars was voted down by the taxpayers. Since 2006 school taxes have increased 29%, and that does not tell the whole story as the Reserve Funds have been drained to fill in budget gaps. Taxpayers are fed up and taxed out, as demonstrated by the vote to turn down the Bond.

Because CCSD is considered a high wealth district it only receives about $2,383 of  Foundation Aid per student yet there are many Districts in the State that receive $10,000-$15,000 per student! The challenge for us is how to get more money and our fair share out of these State coffers.

Currently there is a program in NY State that will provide extra funds to Districts that consolidate/merge with another District and thankfully here in Clarkstown there is a District that qualifies for this program, Nanuet,  which shares its borders with Clarkstown that is one of the requirements for such a merger.

I would like to suggest that a great opportunity exists for taxpayers in both Nanuet and Clarkstown to take a look at the possibility for merging to the great benefit of all of Clarkstown’s taxpayers.

Consider the following – Nanuet Union Free School District (NUFSD) has its own set of problems. Instead of a shrinking school population its numbers are relatively steady.  The is due to the fact that most of the Town of Clarkstown’s rental properties are located within its borders. In fact the population is predicted to increase due to the scheduled rezoning in 2015 of the Hamlet Center from commercial to mixed use residential (Apartments and Stores).

I believe that Clarkstown is absolutely doing the right thing in the long term in developing a vibrant Nanuet downtown.  However, this will put tremendous financial pressure on the Nanuet School District as they do not have the space or funds for more students. As bad as the tax increases have been for CCSD taxpayers, they have been even more onerous for Nanuet taxpayers. During the same period that CCSD taxes went up 29%, Nanuet school taxes went up 53% and Nanuet residents now pay 30% more in School Taxes than CCSD residents. This huge difference is due mainly to Pfizer winning a massive decrease in their tax liability to the NUFSD and it is also due to Nanuet’s smaller size and smaller home ownership base. Further, because Nanuet is considered a higher wealth district than Clarkstown it receives less aid per student.  However, Nanuet’s facilities are in much better shape than many in the CCSD and need less expensivation renovations.

Here is my summary of what I believe would be the financial benefits that the State aid program would provide under a merger.

Increased State School Aid Current Foundation Aid for CCSD is $20,178,856 and for NFSD it is $4,351,009 for a total of $25,529,865

After Consolidation this would increase by $4,595,000 per year for the first five years and then be reduced by 4% per year over the next 9 years resulting in a total of additional aid of $43,657,455 over the fourteen years of the subsidy.

Building Aid  This is currently set at 55.1% for CCSD and 25.4% for NFSD and will be increased by 30% to 71.6% for all new construction during the next ten years.

Assuming a $100 million dollar Bond @ 4% interest rate for 30 years the annual cost for interest and principal would be $5,728,988. Currently the State would pick up 55.1% or $3,156,672 at the new 71.6% rate the would pick up $4,101,955 saving taxpayers $945,000 or $28,358,490 over the 30 year life of the bond. All existing NFSD debt eligible for aid would be reimbursed at the higher CCSD of 55.1% and additional $3,000,000 or more.

We can also assume that in a top to bottom renovation upgrade we will reduce annual maintenance costs by at least $2 million a year for the next 14 years, or another $28 million in savings.

Administration would be consolidated and we should expect savings of at least $5.3 million out of the current $8.1 million in administrative costs on an annual basis which will easily offset the loss of revenue from Nanuet as homeowners taxes are reduced 23% and non-homestead (business) taxes are reduced by 10% for a total annual reduction of $5.3 Million.

Bottom Line for the next five years? A combined Nanuet / Clarkstown District will receive an extra $7.6 million per year in State Aid and cost reductions.  We will have a system of completely renovated schools and we will have excess funds to properly fund reserves. That should mean that the Combined School District Board should be able to stay within the Tax Cap and maintain staffing for at least the following five years after a merger.

This issue is very complex and admittedly this is a simplified analysis.  But the additional good news is that there are State Grants available for Local Government Efficiency (LGE) Studies that will pay the entire costs of an unbiased review. I am sure that a complete study by independent skilled analysts will be able to identify more savings from the integration of these two wonderful School Districts.

Let us take this grant money and do a study to verify my analysis. After all what do we the taxpayers have to lose?

Sincerely, Jim Flynn

Note from Editor: After receiving the above letter it came to our attention that Mark McNeill, Superintendent of the Nanuet School District, had superciliously rejected Mr. Flynn’s modest proposal to study the issue with available grant money. McNeill wrote to Flynn an email fatuous in its pomposity in ‘whereasing’ Flynn’s idea with the following pontification:

Subject: Meeting RE LGE Grant for Nanuet/Clarkstown Study

Thank you for your email. 

I would like to bring to your attention that at last night’s Board meeting, the Board initiated, discussed and approved the following resolution:

Whereas, the issue of annexation by Clarkstown has been raised and

Whereas, the Board of Education has been presented material; and

Whereas, the Board of Education believes strongly that the Nanuet School District provides our students with an excellent educational experience which it will not compromise through annexation; and

Whereas, the Nanuet community is strong and the School District is an important part of that community; 

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT:

  1. The Board of Education does not believe annexation (or consolidation) by Clarkstown or any other District is in the best interest of Nanuet residents and will not take any action to promote annexation.

This essentially puts closure to the Board’s position on merger consolidation or annexation.

Thank you,
Mark

Mark McNeill
Superintendent Nanuet Public Schools

[Picture Credit: http://chrisinmaryville.net/the-doj-crushing-the-hopes-and-educational-futures-of-children-of-all-races.html]

About Michael N. Hull

Michael N. Hull has lived in Rockland County for 35 years where he writes articles on philosophy and political affairs. Hull has written over 300 articles for New City Patch and Rockland Voice. He is presently a senior editor of the Facebook page Clarkstown: What They Don't Want You To Know and a senior editor of Rockland Voice.

About the Author
Michael N. Hull has lived in Rockland County for 35 years where he writes articles on philosophy and political affairs. Hull has written over 300 articles for New City Patch and Rockland Voice. He is presently a senior editor of the Facebook page Clarkstown: What They Don't Want You To Know and a senior editor of Rockland Voice.

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