Cheers and jeers

CHEERS – To saving money. The New York State Association of School Business Officials pointed out the state Legislature passed several cost-saving and mandate-relief measures. The four bills include a Board of Cooperative Educational Services property lease extender that allows longer leases of 20 years so BOCES can get better terms from landlords; the repeal of a requirement for annual visual inspection of school buildings, saving an average of $2,000 per school district; legislation that allows the Department of Motor Vehicles to share fingerprints and background checks of prospective bus drivers to avoid duplicative efforts; and a measure that allows schools to post bids on a state procurement website accessible to vendors from around the state. These measures may not produce a major savings, but they are a good start.

JEERS – To misusing money. This week we heard about yet another New York public authority that is mishandling money. According to a state comptroller’s audit, the New York Power Authority leases public land in the St. Lawrence region to two golf courses, a local boating club and a private university at little or no cost and often without collecting the rent. The audit says the authority collects only a few thousand dollars in rent each year for the properties. The annual payments should exceed $200,000, the audit says. For example, a private St. Lawrence golf course rents land assessed at $1.8 million from the authority for $2,000 a year, while the fair market rent is $180,000 a year. The audit was the latest revelation regarding the mishandling or misuse of money by public authorities. The state should monitor these agencies more closely and, in some cases, demand reform. A 2004 state comptroller’s report stated, “The time for meaningful reform to increase accountability, deter misconduct and reduce waste and inefficiency at the more than 640 public authorities and subsidiary corporations in New York state has come.” Did that time ever arrive?

CHEERS – To new graduates. Several local high school graduation ceremonies took place Friday afternoon and several others are today. Is graduating high school a big deal? You bet it is. The National Dropout Prevention Center points out graduating from high school will determine how well you live for the next 50 years. On average, high school graduates earn $143 more per week than high school dropouts, and college graduates earn $336 more per week than high school graduates, the center says. Graduating from high school gives young people the abilities and resources they need to become productive members of society. Some of the graduates will go into the work force right away, some will go into the military, some will further their education at college and some will go to trade schools. We hope to see our local graduates make a difference.