To think where Latham was in 1970, compared to its appearance today, is staggering.
The majority of the housing developments that branch off of Troy-Schenectady Road, and those that have since sprouted north, were not present. Many of those homes were built in the early ‘80s or later and have had families continue to move in to raise their children. It’s an influx of population growth that North Colonie has endured over the years, with the school district tweaking and adjusting its elementary school assignments accordingly. But, the last major addition to Shaker High School was in 1970, when girls swooned over the guys with Bobby Sherman 8-track tapes playing in their cars.
North Colonie Superintendent Joseph Corr presented an ambitious $196 million upgrade project that voters promptly responded to in record numbers just prior to the holidays. A knee-jerk reaction would have readers thinking the the district was trying to pull a fast one on voters. The hefty price tag, also, leaves one with ticket shock. And, the timing of the vote has left some to voice their skepticism of the entire project.
The district projects roughly 1,000 additional students to walk through its doors over the next decade, and that surpasses its usual means of adjustment. It now has the opportunity, with the approval of its residents, a plan to include much needed upgrades to several of the district’s schools. Not only to address the need for more space, but also address present and future technological needs. And, the district already has state aid available to it, presently 69 percent of the cost, so long as a plan is submitted on time.
But, you voted it down.
Correction — 54 percent of voters turned the plan down. But, instead of the district shelving the idea for another time, it is scrambling to come up with yet another plan in time to take advantage of the generous state aid available to it. That rate decreases to a little more than half should a plan come in after next June. And, another plan is coming. Which means, the district is looking to do two things, convince roughly 350 voters to change their minds, and to do so in time to have more than two-thirds of the cost covered by the state.
The potential tax increase of $250 a year is a concern to anyone watching their budgets, and most of us are doing just that. However, if the original plan went through, the increase would not be effective until 2022, at its earliest.
Latham has attracted families to its school district for decades, for its low taxes, excellent schools and superb community services. North Colonie is an investment the community needs to take a look at. Corr will come back with another plan, and hopefully before next June. Everyone is tasked in making sure Shaker Pride is more tangible than those Bobby Sherman 8-tracks.
Michael Hallisey is managing editor of Spotlight Newspapers.