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Report: Population, school enrollment trending down in Twin Counties

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October 15, 2019 05:34 pm

HUDSON — As Democrats and Republicans in Washington debate on whether another economic slump is looming, sobering statistics were released this week by a Hudson Valley research organization that illustrated how the Hudson Valley is faring more than a decade after the Great Recession.

Pattern for Progress, “Out of Alignment,” a year-long study funded by Central Hudson, looked at how the Hudson Valley recovered since the Great Recession that began in December 2007, and what is on the horizon. Pattern for Progress is a nonprofit policy, planning, advocacy and research organization based in Newburgh. “The recovery from the Great Recession has proven to be uneven at best,” Jonathan Drapkin, CEO and president of Pattern for Progress, said in a statement.

While economists typically look at three economic indicators — unemployment rate, stock market and Gross Domestic Product, Pattern for Progress took its report steps further. The report factored in median income, public school enrollment, tuition costs, student debt housing costs, population decline, aging population, public school taxes and health care and child care costs.

The research looked statistics for the mid- and upper-Hudson Valley, including Orange, Putnam, Dutchess, Ulster, Sullivan, Greene and Columbia counties.

Jobs and Income

Throughout the Hudson Valley, higher paying jobs, such as in the manufacturing sector, which boasts an average salary of $70,000, are growing smaller, while lower-paying sectors, such as food and hospitality (average salary of $21,000, and retail (average salary $30,000) are expanding, according to the report.

The result?

“People are earning less money,” Drapkin said.

Despite lower-than-average unemployment rates compared to the state, Columbia County, along with Dutchess, Orange and Ulster, has seen its poverty rate steadily climb.

Poverty rates for Columbia County increased from 9% in 2000 to 11.4% in 2017; in Greene County, from 12.2% percent to 12.4%. But both counties are still below the state average of 15.1%, according to the Census. The federal poverty level for a family of four in 2017 was $24,000.

Those statistics are not new to Columbia County residents, Columbia County Economic Development CEO and President F. Michael Tucker said Tuesday.

“The report certainly focuses on community issues many are already aware of in a way that will galvanize identifying opportunities to address those issues highlighted in the report,” he said.

Greene County has been faring pretty well compared to some of its neighbors, Greene County Director of Economic Development and Planning Karl Heck said.

“Our median household income was up and our poverty level was flat,” he said, adding that Greene County was one of three counties whose poverty level has been declining overall since the Great Recession.

As evidence of the growing and retail sectors, all counties saw an increase in traveler spending. Ulster had the largest dollar increase, at $156 million, and Columbia the largest percentage increase at 52.2%.

Population

Population is stagnant in the Hudson Valley.

All counties show a decline in the number of births from 2007 to 2017. Columbia County saw a decrease of 80 births, while Greene saw a drop of 72.

“This is a regionwide issue,” Heck said. “That was the peak of the baby boom.”

Although birth rates are declining, people migrate into the county from other areas, Heck said.

“Greene County has managed to grow in the last two censuses while having negative birth rates,” he said. “The migration from New York City seems to be growing.”

The county sees about 90 newcomers a year, he said, adding that these folks are often drawn by lower costs of living.

“The high number of second homes makes it difficult to predict population size,” Heck said. “The houses are counted as vacant for the census.”

The biggest declines in the non-Hispanic population since 2000 came in Putnam, Sullivan and Columbia.

The Hudson Valley’s population does not statistically measure up to the size of the millennial population. In Columbia and Greene more than 40 percent of the population will be age 55 and older by 2030. By 2030 almost 25% of Columbia will be age 70 or above.

“We have not yet made the necessary social and economic adjustments to prepare for a significantly older population,” Drapkin said.

That has ripple effects.

“The numbers are just staggering,” Draping said. “We’re not having kids.”

Heck agreed that the county’s population is older than the state average.

The county’s tourism and economic development and planning departments are making efforts to attract younger populations to the area, he said.

“There is a lot of Main Street revitalization,” he said. “Younger people are more into small urban centers and downtown living. We want to make these areas attractive and have appropriate housing.”

An issue for communities such as Greene County is not having adequate rentals, Heck said.

“Kids grow up and have no where to live,” he said. “We need to make sure we can retain the population we have.”

Schools

Public school enrollment is rapidly declining, but education costs are increasing, according to the study.

“By 2028, public school enrollment is projected to decline by 25.8% since the 2000-2001 school year, even as per-pupil costs skyrocket amid disappointing outcomes,” according to the study. “As a result, local school taxes will continue to rise, raising questions whether the current system of public education is sustainable.

Columbia and Greene have seen the most dramatic decline in percentage enrollment.

Between the 2000-2001 and 2028-2029 school years, Columbia (39%), Greene (36%) and Ulster (33%) are projected to lose a third or more of their student population, according to the report.

“Sustained declines in enrollment project a future loss of skilled workers and a significant impact on community college enrollment,” according to the study.

Catskill Central School District has experienced mixed results, Superintendent Ronel Cook said in a statement.

“At certain grade levels, we noticed a decrease in enrollment, while other grade levels have demonstrated an increase,” Cook said. “A declining enrollment can have huge implications with budgeting. I am working closely with the Board of Education and the community to establish budget priorities for the 2020-2021 school year. If the Board desires to maintain smaller class sizes, then we have to move forward in that direction. Ultimately, smaller classes sizes must lead to increased student achievement.”

Cook said the district’s $40.8 million capital project will cause more families to move to the school district, he said.

“We have a safe and secure learning environment with outstanding programs for students,” Cook said. “Our high school graduation rate exceeds 90% and our students have demonstrated double-digit increases on state assessments. We have a tremendous staff and dedicated board of education who works extremely hard to support student growth.”

Construction on the project is expected to start June 26.

A second part of the study to be released at a later date will look at solutions and ways to improve economic circumstances in the Hudson Valley.

“Certainly at the CEDC we are focused on workforce and education supporting entrepreneurship building infrastructure in a way that will preserve and enhance the quality of life in Columbia County,” Tucker said. “So I guess my message is by working together and spending time understanding the data in the report, we have an opportunity as a community to come up with solutions and initiatives.”

Comments
The new jail is looking more and more inappropriate. Let's do this again. $90 million (loan, reserve, interest, maintenance,, and operations). None of the contractors, architects or engineers are from Greene County!!! None of the interest stays in Greene County. NO, repeat NO, new jobs are created here. $90 million compares with our now $110 million annual budget, as in ADDS $90 million. With bail and the other justice reforms that come in January, we will have just 10 detainees.
WAKE UP GREENE COUNTY, WAKE UP. Plan and implement something we actually need, that can build not spend resources.