Potsdam-Canton merger gets biased start
Wednesday, November 6, 2013 - 7:16 am

To the Editor:

After reading an article written by Susan Mende regarding the merger study between Canton and Potsdam Central School districts, I have some concerns. One of the main points the reader takes away from this article is that this newly-hired company, the Western New York Educational Council is already biased towards this proposed merger.

Without even knowing the economic and social make-up of both communities, the Executive Director of this consulting firm has stated “Change is painful for humans. Segments of the community and staff will work against it.”

“The payoff for students and the community is very positive” (when talking about a merger that happened).

These comments are far from the neutral, fact-finding company that I assumed we hired. This company operates its business out of Buffalo New York. Anyone familiar with Syracuse, Buffalo or Rochester knows that schools are often not even a 10 minute walk from one district to another.

This is a much more complex area to coordinate transportation, food service, extracurricular activities and after school care.

Another issue I have with this council is that they are actually a piece of the puzzle that is crippling many New York State School Districts. This is a company that has been set up as a 501(c)3 – They operate as a business, but pay no sales or property tax due to the “educational” nature of their business. Their headquarters is in an office at SUNY Buffalo, which pays no taxes as well.

I have had many arguments with friends who now hail from the cities I have mentioned, and also from around the US. They think it is atrocious that I believe universities, hospitals and other property- holding corporations need to start paying a share of our tax burden.

They can take this side because they live in areas where not- for-profit operations are not having a profound effect on their tax rates and services.

The Office of the State Comptroller has finally researched this inequity and their findings are staggering. 25 percent of real property in the State of New York is exempt from property taxation. The total value is $680 billion dollars. The sad fact is that we would be ecstatic here in Potsdam and Canton if only 25 percent of our assessed property were tax exempt.

The Potsdam Village is 65.9 percent exempt. Canton is about equal to that number. However awkward it may be, this company must study these facts.

They must realize that not-for-profit universities, hospitals and businesses that make millions in our communities have had very lax oversight concerning their property uses, their charity quota and their earnings in the past few decades.

The 28 people who will be charged with the momentous task of considering a school merger must ask this company difficult questions, they must persist if an answer seems too easy or too skewed. This committee must remember that this company is paid to work for us, and in the end they will go back to their own districts, and hopefully, leave us no worse than when they arrived.

Peggy Brusso