By Jeanne Sager
NARROWSBURG January 28, 2005 Rumors that the Narrowsburg campus of Sullivan West is facing closure have the community up in arms this week but district officials say theyre just that: rumors.
It is officially a rumor, but we officially have deep concerns about our budget, said Superintendent Alan Derry.
Sullivan West Board of Education member Angela Daley, a Narrowsburg resident, said Derry has told the board members theyre going to have to make some tough decisions this budget season.
At last weeks board meeting, residents in attendance heard his warnings that the board would have to look at everything even buildings in the district and started asking questions about the future of the Narrowsburg school.
This isnt the first time the elementary campus has been rumored to be closing, and many community residents are worried about the ramifications of seeing the hamlets only school shut down.
"We think its going to have a devastating effect on this town," said local businessman Tom Prendergast. "We think perhaps its a death knell to Narrowsburg."
When the Narrowsburg district was considering a merger with neighboring Jeffersonville-Youngsville and Delaware Valley, Prendergast said residents were told their taxes would go down and promised that the hamlets school would remain open.
"Our taxes have gone up, and now theyre talking about closing the school," he said.
Prendergast said the district has sunk $6 million in renovations into the Narrowsburg campus and now their reneging on their promises.
"We think they should pick on someone else and get their financial act together," he said of the board of education. "The people who are responsible for this should be held accountable."
Narrowsburg resident Tony Ritter said hes concerned about a possible closure especially after the district spent money to renovate the building.
He wasnt at last weeks board meeting, but hes heard that Derry said the district is in "dire straits."
Now, Ritter said, people in the Narrowsburg community want some answers.
"Theres a lot of questions that have to be resolved," he said. "I thought things were working very well after the merger . . . now the superintendent who has been there for three months says the district is in dire straits."
Daley said the important thing is that the community band together and get involved in the budget process.
Derry has called upon 32 taxpayers from around the district to volunteer for a budget committee. The idea, Daley said, was to help residents better understand "how a budget is made," but also to find out what the community wants to see in the budget.
"I think his whole intention is to find out from the public whats important to you," Daley said.
The Narrowsburg school has not been put on the table, at least not yet, she said. And the committee will be called upon to pass judgment on situations just like this one.
"Theres nothing thats been decided," Daley said. "It hasnt even been a conversation yet; all we know [is] what he said that we have to make some very hard decisions."
Daley said there are misperceptions floating around her community, and she hopes that people wont automatically take a stand to "vote down" the district budget.
"If you go on a contingency budget because the budget is voted down twice, what goes is the stuff for the kids," she said. "People need to understand theres a lot of hard issues.
"The school district is between a rock and hard place, and weve been between a rock and a hard place," she added. "The rock is just getting bigger, and the hard place isnt getting any softer.
"This is not Narrowsburg against DV against Jeff," Daley said. "This is whats best for all the kids in the district.
"Its not the fault of the merger, its the fault of the economy theres very little money and theres a very large expense."
With three elementary schools, the district is able to provide class sizes that are the envy of almost every other district in the state, Daley said. Although tough decisions will have to be made, she said she doesnt want to see the district go backward.
Daley said the key is to get the community involved and help them to understand the budget process.
"If you dont ask, you dont know," she said. "When people dont know stuff, they make stuff up."
Derry said he hopes the information dispersed to the community through the committee will make a better-informed public and make for a better budget vote.