Leaving the former Parker School building, which closed at the end of the 2018-19 school year, vacant would be a drain on the neighborhood that includes Suggett Park, Cortland Mayor Brian Tobin said.
“To have a vacant school in the middle of the city, that would be a terrible impact across the board” hurting psyches and home values for a wide radius, he said.
However, Cortland Enlarged City School District voters approved on Tuesday selling the building to the city for $91, by a vote of 2,196-588.
“That shows a lot of support for this,” Tobin said. “The people have spoken.”
Plans for the building include being used as an early childhood learning center by the YWCA Cortland and CAPCO.
“This project will support and stabilize child care, which is important to businesses throughout our community,” Tobon said, saying the city has few child care options.
For the next step, city officials will discuss the sale and other details, including leases, with CAPCO and the YWCA before it is brought to a final vote by the Common Council.
Cortland approves school budget
Cortland school district voters approved on Tuesday selling the former Parker Elementary School to the city of Cortland, even as they approved a $50.17 million budget, the district announced Wednesday afternoon.
Voters approved school budgets and other propositions Tuesday across the greater Cortland area.
Voter turnout in Cortland was heavier than normal, said Alicia Zupancic, clerk of the school board. More than 2,900 absentee ballots were returned in the all mail-in election. Typically, the district sees 500 to 550 voters turn out to the polls, Zupancic said.
The Parker sale, for $91, was approved 2,196 to 588. The city plans to renovate the facility and lease it to CAPCO and YWCA Cortland for child-care programs.
Voters also approved:
- A $50.17 million budget for 2020-21 that increases spending 1.2% and increases the tax levy 1.1%, 2,042 to 733.
- Spending $529,000 to buy student transport vehicles, 1,980 to 774.
- Approved naming a high school student as an ex-officio member of the school board, 2,270 to 499.
- Approved funding the Cortland Free Library for $401,024, 1,851 to 926.
- Electing Janet Griffin and Lorilee Megivern to the school board for three-year terms, with 1,706 and 1,488 votes, respectively. They defeated Lauren Mossotti-Kline who received 1123 votes, and Dorreen Hettich-Atkins, 753 votes.
Tully The $21.46 million budget was adopted, 586-390. A second proposition, to fund the Tully Free Library with $198,214, was approved.
Lindy Glennon, the executive director of CAPCO, said that if approved by the Common Council, the center could house other services, as well, including providing family support and mental health services.
The Cortland Enlarged City School District closed the 50,000-square-foot school in June 2019 as it consolidated five elementary schools into three buildings; Virgil Elementary also closed.
“We see a lot of potential at this center for the children in the community,” she said.
Also, sharing space with the YWCA would let them share resources.
“We are very excited about” the vote, she said. “This is step one in the process.”
The city has been allocated $500,000 from Empire State Development for the project.
City officials previously said the project would require $2 million in capital expenses over 10 years, as well as $460,000 in start-up expenses and $166,000 in annual operating costs.
Tobin is working with state officials to break up the $500,000 grant into stages, so the city would receive a portion of the total grant — $200,000 — after completing $1 million of the project. Tobin said the project would require $1 million to make the building ready for the YWCA and CAPCO.
More questions will be raised as the process continues, but Tobin said he is confident in the city’s ability to work out the details.
“I’m sure there will be more questions that will come forward and I’m sure there will be rational answers and I’m sure this will be a great resource for the community,” he said.