While the City of Utica is being asked to kick in $$$$ to the Utica City School District for a new school, Utica's old Superintendent, Daniel Lowengard, and Syracuse City officials were having what the Post Standard described as a "love fest" during Lowengard's "state of the schools" address. A construction project will start (!) with rebuilding 7 schools for $225 Million. The first project will be to convert a vacant old high school building into a new "career and technical" highschool. [Shades of Utica's Millenium Project, perhaps?] Lowengard is thanked and praised for his "leadership."
It is easy to earn thanks and praise if you bring home goodies on someone else's dime. In poorer school districts such as Utica or Syracuse, it would not be uncommon to see the State kick in 90-95 % of the cost of construction. So while Superintendent Lowengard may be viewed in Syracuse as some sort of savior by producing a $225 million project at a cost of perhaps $25 million to Syracuse taxpayers YOU the NEW YORK STATE TAXPAYER in Utica, Binghamton, Watertown, Old Forge, etc . GET STUCK WITH PAYING THE BALANCE without even realizing it! (Just think of all the local businesses that will benefit from the construction and the numerous opportunities for people to take advantage of the spending. Everyone will have their hand out to grab a piece of the action. No wonder they are all falling over each other in the Salt City. Of course, 4 years ago, it was Utica's turn -- with similar fanfare -- and now we suffer the consequences.) If you could build your house by paying only 10% of the cost and have a rich uncle pay the rest, wouldn't you indulge yourself a bit? Now multiply this by the myriad of school districts across NYS. Is it any wonder we are driving jobs and people out of the state? We cannot afford the taxes required to support this scheme.
School districts are encouraged to build Taj Mahals, overbuilt for actual needs. Taxpayers will incur significantly increased maintainance costs down the road. Experimentation (a/k/a risk of taxpayer money) is also encouraged.This seems to have happened in the physical layout of the Millenium Project with its themed "houses" (at Utica's Proctor H.S.) under Supt. Lowengard. The school now requires administrative staff in quadruplicate and will cost the Utica taxpayers for years to come. Contractors, construction unions, teachers' unions, administrators, building supply venders, etc. etc. all get benefits -- but the taxpayers pay and pay -- and the students? What about the students? Let's just say that we don't hear of Utica being held up as a model for other communities.
The problem isn't Mr. Lowengard -- he's only taking advantage of the system. THE PROBLEM IS THE SYSTEM WHICH HAS A DISCONNECT BETWEEN THOSE DETERMINING BENEFITS AND THOSE PAYING THE BILLS. School funding may be a reverse of the usual Albany mandating and Locals paying -- but either way, waste is the result. It's as if those who would benefit lobbied for a system that would encourage high levels of spending.
Instead of thanks and praise, there should be anger and demands from weary New York taxpayers that our laws be changed to require that the people determining government benefits also be the ones responsible for paying for them.