December 5, 2021

Moravia district to discuss summer rec takeover

MORAVIA — Moravia’s school superintendent will recommend Wednesday that the district not take over the town’s decades-old summer recreation program after the town decided to stop overseeing it.

“We are saddened by the loss of the program,” Superintendent John Birmingham said Friday. “Unfortunately, the school district is not in a position to fill that void by assuming programmatic and financial control of the program. While we understand the benefits of summer recreation, the board of education cannot justify adding to the tax burden of its residents.”

Erica Heim, of Moravia, said she isn’t sure the school district is a long-term solution, but she regrets the loss because her two older daughters participated in the program.

“They’ve both met their best friends there,” Heim said. “They’ve really just had an amazing time there. They love that program more than any other camp I’ve sent them to.”

Birmingham said this year’s program cost would equal about 20 percent of the increase in the tax levy of this year’s district budget.

The six-week program held at Fillmore Glen State Park is for children in the Moravia School District. The towns of Moravia, Lock and Niles paid the costs for local children. Parents of students from other towns had to pay about $210 per child.

The Board of Education will take public comment on the issue at its next meeting. Several parents have already signed up to speak, Birmingham said. Some of them have said they felt the town forced the issue onto the school district.

“They voted to end the program so they could force the school district into taking over,” Heim said.

The town passed a resolution earlier this month to end its oversight of the summer recreation program after Supervisor Terrance Baxter said the town had been paying more into the fund than any other participating town — Locke and Niles — for several years.

“Each town has their own money problems,” Baxter said. “They do the best they can. There’s no one to blame. We decided that we were no longer going to pay for other children from other towns.”

Baxter said every year the town would come up about $3,000 to $4,000 short in funds.

The cost to run the six-week program this year was about $41,000. Baxter said about 200 kids participated. The program included swimming, field trips and educational opportunities.

Parents who attended the town board meeting said they felt there was little communication with parents about the issue.

“It’s disappointing to me that the town decided to eliminate the program without making every effort to find other sources of revenue, i.e. grants or put a better system in place to better manage the financial component of the program,” Birmingham said.

He went on to note that the kids will be the ones losing out.

Baxter said the town had several public meetings to discuss the issue.

“We made our decision based on operations, costs and our inability to collect all the funds,” Baxter said. “It wasn’t done in secret.”

Fritz Hess of Moravia participated in the program as a kid. He hopes the school district takes over.

“It was my childhood and my three sisters growing up,” he said.

Then his kids participated in it. “In a rural area, that program is vital,” he said. “I picked my kids up and they’re all red faced, sweaty and smiling like they were having fun.”