Dunkirk school officials are stressing the importance of what might be one of the final pushes for support of the repowering of NRG Energy from coal to natural gas.
During the board of education meeting Wednesday, Civil Service Employees Association President John Hollins, Teachers Association President Nancy Baker and Administrators Association President Rock Vallone underscored the significance of a rally for NRG Saturday, as well as utilizing the www.powerupwny.org website.
"If the community would ... get on the Power Up Western New York website, make phone calls, send emails, it's so important to our children," Baker said. "It will take a few minutes, but the benefit will be immeasurable."
OBSERVER Photo by Greg Fox
Dunkirk Schools Civil Service Employees Association President John Hollins (left), Teachers Association President Nancy Baker (center) and Administrators Association President Rock Vallone speak on behalf of repowering NRG Energy during Wednesday’s Dunkirk Board of Education meeting.
"We all have a stake in this and we'd like to see our county and community members come out to support us Saturday," Hollins added.
"We need everybody's help to try and sway them one more time and let them know we are a team. We ask people to stand by us, swing the bat with us. This is our fight."
"(NRG) is essential to the city of Dunkirk's growth and development and it is certainly essential to the district," Vallone concluded. "This district has many children with many needs. We have many programs to address those needs and to close that achievement gap and that cannot be done if we lose all of our funding and the tax base rises at such a large amount."
The rally on Saturday will take place on the Dunkirk City Pier from 11 a.m. until noon.
NRG is awaiting a decision from the State Public Service Commission on whether it should repower its Dunkirk-based plant or close it down. A decision could come as early as Dec. 19, when the PSC meets next.
"There's a link (on the Power Up website) that we can send a message directly to Gov. (Andrew) Cuomo," Superintendent Gary Cerne said. "It takes literally 10 seconds to do. We're also going to have letters available on Saturday for those that don't have computer access, so that rally will be a big opportunity to let our feelings be known."
Board President Kenneth Kozlowski added, "If we can flood (Cuomo) and tell him just how vital NRG is to this community, they've been here for a long time and we want to keep them here, so just a little bit more help one more time, we hope, and that'll be the end of the road for us."
NRG participates in a PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) program with the city and the school district.
As a result of no PSC decision yet, the district, which is entering budget season, is having to push back looking at salaries and benefits. Those two items account for nearly 81 percent of expenditures, according to School Business Manager William Thiel.
"Obviously, the PILOT is huge for us. We'd have to raise taxes 42 percent to make up for the loss of revenue," Cerne said in a past OBSERVER article. "Our exact amount (this year) is $4,062,020, which is 10 percent of our revenue. How do you make up 10 percent of your revenue? It's impossible. The only way to make it up would be to raise taxes 42 percent, or I could cut 58 teachers, neither of which is possible. We're between a rock and a hard spot."
Also during the meeting, two appointments for Spanish-speaking clerks were approved, with both appointees receiving $12.66 per hour. The clerks are Atalia Rosario and Jessica Vazquez and are stationed at the high school.
A transportation bid was awarded to First Student Inc. of Fredonia for the busing of students to Lake Shore Middle School. The cost of the contract is $230 per day for 120 days, which totals $27,600.
Four change orders for Ahlstrom Schaeffer Electric were approved, including $12,585 for installing more computer data and power drops for six additional classrooms.
The board recognized the students of the month, including Ashley Collazo of School 3, Justin Waller of School 4, Frank Wilson of School 5, Edwin Sanchez of School 7, Theresa George of the middle school and Agape Berakah of the high school.
The next regular meeting is Jan. 9 at 6:30 p.m. in the large group instruction room of the administrative building.
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