Ray Castellani did not mince words during the first in a series of public meetings to discuss the future of the Marlboro Central School District in light of the ongoing Dynegy issue.
The superintendent told the large crowd that gathered in the Marlboro High School auditorium on Nov. 28 that not only was the district facing severe program cutbacks and job layoffs as a result of Dynegy filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, but residents could be forced to swallow large tax increases to make up for the substantial loss in revenue.
“It’s going to be painful all around,” said Castellani, explaining that because the bankruptcy case is still pending, the exact impact on the district or its residents could not yet be determined. He did promise that school officials will use a balanced approach when it comes time to make any final decisions.
“We will not ask taxpayers to bear all of the burden,” he said. “That wouldn’t be fair.”
In keeping with the topic of last week’s meeting, Castellani spent a majority of the time explaining how much money the district would save if it closed two of its three elementary schools. If both the Milton and Middle Hope elementary schools were closed, and kindergarten through second grade classes were moved to Marlboro Elementary School, the district could save around $2 million, he said.
As a result, K-2 class sizes would increase by roughly five to ten students and around 40 administrators, teachers and staff members would lose their jobs. In addition, art and music classes would be offered from a traveling cart and support services would increase over time as academic intervention became more necessary.
If the two buildings were in fact vacated, Castellani said the district would look into the possibility of leasing them to the town or private businesses but the option of reacquiring the properties in the future would need to remain on the table.
“We’re not willing to enter any lease longer than 10 years,” he said.
As a further cost saving measure, Castellani explained that he has been speaking with other area school districts and BOCES to explore the possibility of sharing services such as athletic programs or personnel. He said school officials have also been keeping in close contact with local politicians to ensure that their voices are being heard in Albany and he asked residents to do the same.
“It’s extremely important that we come together as a community,” Castellani said.
When the presentation was over, the floor was opened to comments and questions from the audience. While some individuals offered money saving suggestions such as selling unused land or negotiating with the teachers’ union, others accused school administrators of seeing the problem coming for years but failing to control spending.
When one angry resident warned that Marlborough would be a “ghost town” if taxes went up 5 or 10 percent, Castellani responded with a strong dose of reality.
“Taxes are not going to go up 5 or 10 percent,” he said. “It’s going to be much more than that.”
By Jessica Murray