No question about it: The crowd of 200 that assembled at Monday’s Niskayuna school board meeting to plead for the Van Antwerp Middle School made a compelling case: Why mess with success? But crowds of happy students and their families often make that argument, and there’s a good reason school boards can’t appease them: The crowd of angry taxpayers that would show up if the district proposed a 12 percent tax hike would undoubtedly be much larger.
And that’s about the size of the tax hike that would be necessary if a projected $6 million deficit doesn’t get whittled down. There’s no way taxpayers would sit still for that, and no way voters would approve such a budget. So closing Van Antwerp seems inevitable, as cut, slash and chop the school board must.
School closings have become a necessary evil in many school districts as declining enrollments or, simply, today’s fiscal realities assert themselves. There’s also something called a tax cap to contend with. Which means even suburban districts like Niskayuna’s, which pride themselves in the quality of their schools and have many people with the means to pay for them, have to make cuts. And all the easy ones were made years ago.
Any special-interest group, such as one that wants a particular school kept open, needs to keep this in mind when they make their case. It might help if they could provide the board with some alternatives.