The column below was originally published in the July 2014 “Our Town” insert to the Cazenovia Republican. It is being republished by request.
There are many exciting new initiatives taking shape this year. This is not an accident, but part of a conscious effort to choose a constructive, sustainable path for our community.
In 2011, the village of Cazenovia celebrated its 200th anniversary, an inspiring legacy of history and continuity. Yet community leaders simultaneously face major challenges related to infrastructure, demographics and revenue. Meeting those challenges will require vision, teamwork and shared commitment to forging a path that connects our heritage to our future.
Cazenovia, like most municipalities and our nation as a whole, is awakening to the reality that we have chronically under-invested in our infrastructure for decades. Much of our water distribution system is a century old, brick and mortar storm water systems age unseen beneath our feet, our street replacement budget could be tripled without wasting a dime. Even our “living infrastructure” of trees is aging out in surges, requiring increased investment as many cherished but compromised octogenarians are lost along our streets.
Demographically, we face an aging population, requiring attention to care for our older neighbors and action if our schools are to remain vibrant. Our community will require new forms of housing and new options for health maintenance to serve our parents and grandparents. The declining enrollment that has impacted our elementary school for several years will soon hit our high school. The 2015 graduating class of 146 students will be replaced by an incoming eighth grade of 114 followed by a seventh grade of only 105. The unfortunate reality is that my 12-year-old daughter will not have the same options and opportunities as my 17-year-old if present trends continue.
Fiscally, municipalities face the combined challenges of reduced aid, increased regulation, unfunded mandates and the tax cap which act to constrain resources as needs increase. The “well” of cash reserves has all but run dry. Pretending these challenges do not exist will not solve them and inaction is not an option.