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Lansing School Population

It is great to be recognized for excellence.  Lansing schools have certainly seen a lot of recognition lately, including Lansing High School being named a 2017 National Blue Ribbon School, and being ranked 70th within New York State by US News &World Report.  That excellence, along with a strong supportive community attracts families to Lansing, and with the growth spurt the town is experiencing it also brings an impact to school programs and taxes.

"Last school year we ended at 1,164 students," said Lansing School Superintendent Chris Pettograsso at Tuesday's Board Of Education meeting.  "Right now we're at 1,194, so we're up 30 students in a year.  It doesn't seem significant, but it is.  We only see that going up every year as we move forward."

Petograsso reported that monthly 'mobility reports' show continued growth in the number of enrolled students, and warned school board members that they and the school administration must keep a close eye on that growth to plan for possible expansion.

"We'll have to be looking closely at that because I do think there are going to be programmatic  impacts," she said.  "I think there are going to be capital impacts to that.  We might have to make some changes in the future, especially with some of the development in the Town that might be happening.  As a Board we've been keeping a close eye on that."

A number of new and proposed developments in the Town could bring even greater numbers of students.  At a September presentation Cornerstone Group developers, who are contemplating the 'Milton Meadows'  subsidized housing development on town land across the street from the Lansing ball fields, predicted the project could have as many as 43 school aged children living there, including 14 that already attend Lansing schools plus 29 new students.  The 140-unit rental townhouse Cayuga Farms project proposed on Triphammer Road south of Asbury Road is also likely to have an impact on the School District.

"It's pretty spread out right now," Pettograsso said.  "We have one class at 113, our 5th grade class.  They were at 101 at the end of 4th grade, so they have gained a number of students.  There are more apartments available for families now."

While that may be bad news for taxpayers, School Business Administrator Kate Heath had some good news.

"The power plant is a non-issue moving forward," she said.  "We're trying to get the message out to the public that it is a non-issue."

The Cayuga Power Plant dropped $125 million in assessed value since the 2009-10 school year in a Payment In Lieu Of Taxes (PILOT) agreement with Tompkins County.  It is scheduled to drop another $10 million next year, and $5 million more in the last year of the current PILOT agreement. 

"When we are saying the plant is a non-issue we're talking about the financial impact," Pettograsso said.  "Over the years we've been managing it and going with the punches of the PILOT.  Obviously a few years ago we were gravely concerned when the impact was significant on our budget at the same time we were facing the GAP elimination.  We were losing a million dollars there and a million dollars from the PILOT."

But school officials say the threat of a huge tax jump due to the plant's devaluation has passed.  Pettograsso praised school officials for meeting the crisis head-on.

"We're still working closely with the plant," she said.  "We're hopeful that their solar array project will be moving forward, and things like that, but we just don't feel like the sky's falling if things don't work out for the plant.  That's really good news for our district.  Kudos to our former business administrator (Mary June King) and our board and Kate for moving us forward and being able to maintain that loss without ever having to go above the tax cap or ever having to go really crazy.  I know our taxes are significant, but it was really good planning."

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