Commission recommends school consolidation

CHENANGO COUNTY – The Commission on Property Tax Relief released its final report last week, calling for state mandates that would force consolidation for schools with less than 1,000 students.

In Chenango County, three of the county’s nine districts fall into that category: Afton, Otselic Valley and Oxford. In addition, the commission recommended the Commissioner of Education be granted the “discretional authority” to order consolidation of schools with less than 2,000 students, which would include all of the remaining Chenango County school districts, with the exception of Norwich.

According to the Commission’s report, “As a first step in determining where and how these recommended consolidations should occur, the State Education Department should undertake reviews that examine school districts under objective standards based on pupil enrollment trends, geography, breadth of educational programs, potential fiscal savings and level of tax burden.”

Otselic Valley Superintendent Larry Thomas, whose district educates approximately 480 students, said he wants to wait to see how the governor reacts to these recommendations. “I understand the need to look at every possible option in every area.”

“These are tough times, and there are many different ways this could go,” Thomas said. Over the past year, Otselic Valley has also been discussing a major building project. Thomas said the commission’s recommendations may determine how the district chooses to move forward.

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