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Report: School districts in financial distress

WATERVLIET -- State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli released a report Thursday listing Watervliet City Schools as the most fiscally stressed district in the entire state. Schenectady City Schools was also listed in the Top 12.

I wasn't surprised. It's pretty much what I've been telling everybody else. We have a low tax base, we have a high needs tax district that doesnt have a lot of property. A lot of our property is tax exempt, said Superintendent Lori Caplan.

The district has already worked to trim teachers, administrators and support staff. It also eliminated most after school programs.

I believe we need mandate relief. We're not fat anywhere, said Caplan. The difference between my district and others is we got to the cliff faster than anybody else.  Were not over it and I don't plan on us going over it, but without a doubt everybody else is feeling the pinch.

Despite its fiscal rating, Watervliet is in the midst of a multi-million dollar renovation. Its classrooms were rewired for new technology and its football field is getting a new turf. Caplan said the district was able to use its position as a high needs district to secure low interest loans to make needed repairs.

The option was never there to save people or programs, said Caplan. It was either fix up my facilities or leave that money for someone else to take and fix up their facility.

Troy City Schools received the best rating a district can receive for its level of fiscal stress. Administrators attributed that to belt tightening over the past few years, but acknowledged it doesnt mean they are without financial problems.

To imply that 87 percent of districts are not feeling stressed is misleading because it's all the districts, said Troy Superintendent John Carmello.  We still are in a precarious position and could teeter at any minute.

 
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