November 29, 2021

Council to vote on buying Parker school

Joe McIntyre/file photo

Parker Elementary School in Cortland. File photo.

The Cortland Common Council expects to vote Tuesday on buying the former Parker Elementary School from the Cortland Enlarged City School District.

The vote, scheduled for the council’s regular 7 p.m. meeting, would signal the council’s intention to buy the building. If this happens, the school board could vote at its Jan. 14 meeting Tobin to sell the school for a nominal fee, said Superintendent of Schools Michael J. Hoose, speaking at the council’s Dec. 17 meeting.

The sale would then have to be approved by a public referendum, in which voters for the entire school district, and not just the city, would participate. The soonest it could be held would be 45 days after public notice being posted.

“This is a step in the process, and there will be a public referendum for the general public to weigh in,” said Mayor Brian Tobin.

The city has been trying for more than a year to fund a use for the former Parker school, which closed in June when the school district consolidated five of its elementary schools into three buildings, a move that also shuttered the former elementary school in Virgil.

If purchased by the city, the 50,500-square-foot building would be used to house childcare programs run by the local YWCA and CAPCO as well as administrative office space for the city.

The state recently awarded the city $500,000 through a Regional Economic Development Council grant to help renovate the building.

The building is still expected to require $2 million in capital expenses over 10 years, $460,000 in start-up expenses and $166,000 in annual operating expenses. Because of bond restrictions, any fees the city charged to the YWCA and CAPCO would cover only operational expenses.

Tobin has said the city is also looking for additional state funding.

In September, state Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) and Assembly Member Barbara Lifton (D-Ithaca) suggested they would find state money to help the city with the school.

If the city buys the school, use of the building would still be curtailed because of New York State Dormitory Authority bonds. Those restrictions would:

  • Allow the city to buy the Parker school for a nominal price, $91, or a dollar for every year the Parker school was in operation.
  • Allow the city to rent the building to private tenants, provided the city does not profit from the arrangement, and charges tenants only operational costs for the building.
  • Prohibit the building from being used for religious purposes.
  • Require the city “to take actions deemed necessary or advisable” by the Dormitory Authority regarding tenants, fees and the number of days tenants can use the building.
  • Compel the city to pay “legal fees and settlement costs” if the authority determines the city violates any provision of the agreement.

The bond restrictions would also require that the city occupy the building through Oct. 1, 2032, but Hoose has said the bonds would be paid off in five years, which would release the city from these conditions.