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Storm clouds on the horizon?

October 16, 2019 05:30 pm

For the foreseeable future, school enrollment, jobs, income and the general population will spiral downward. That’s a scary prediction for Columbia and Greene counties.

Sobering statistics were released this week by a Hudson Valley research group 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 has recovered since the Great Recession that began in December 2007 and ended in June 2009, and what is on the horizon. The forecast is gloomy.

Pattern for Progress 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.

Here are a few of the findings.

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.

Population is stagnant in the Hudson Valley. And it is getting older fast.

Greene and Columbia 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.

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

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% in the Hudson Valley since the 2000-01 school year, even as per-pupil costs skyrocket amid disappointing outcomes,” according to the report. “As a result, local school taxes will continue to rise, raising questions whether the current system of public education is sustainable.”

Columbia and Greene counties have experienced the most dramatic decline in percentage enrollment. Between the 2000-01 and 2028-29 school years, Columbia (39%) and Greene (36%) are projected to lose a third or more of their student population, according to the report. This will have a serious ripple effect. This degree of sustained decline signals a future loss of skilled workers and a significant impact on community college enrollment.

And there are potentially higher costs not predicted in the report. With such an uneven recovery from an 11-year-old recession, Columbia and Greene counties could see higher taxes with fewer services and closing businesses, rising school taxes with fewer students, and an aging population with nowhere to turn. And that might create a clearer picture of what is on the horizon: storm clouds.