Cortland Common Council met last night (January 7) and unanimously approved a contingent purchase offer on the former Parker Elementary School, which the city plans to buy from the district and transform into a childcare center used by CAPCO and the YWCA.
Prior to last night’s vote, Cortland County Chamber of Commerce President Bob Haight said the project would be a major addition to the community:
“Our daycare systems are currently in an unsustainable model,” Haight said. “They can’t pay their employees enough. They can’t pay them what they’re worth and they have too high of a turnover because they can’t charge our working families enough to cover their expenses.”
It’s a hard reality faced not only in Cortland County, but in many communities across the entire United States.
The most recent data shows half of American families report difficulty finding child care, with primary reasons being cost (31%), lack of open slots (27%) and quality of programs (22%).
In Cortland County, programs currently have the capacity to adequately serve only about a third of the children who live here.
Haight expressed hope that this larger issue is finally being fixed at the state and federal government levels, but he still affirmed that the time for our local leaders to act is now.
“We’re trying to build the most sustainable opportunity that we can,” Haight said. “The ability for the YWCA and CAPCO to come together into this scenario will make them both more efficient, while providing them additional time and sustainability to operate while the larger issue gets fixed.”
Following an 8-0 approval, the proposal will now be taken to a vote by the Board of Education at their next meeting on Tuesday (January 14).
If approved, a 45-day waiting period is required before a public referendum is then held among all residents of the Cortland Enlarged City School District.
At that point, if the community is still in support of the project, the plan would return to council in April or May for finalization.
Mayor Tobin said that leaves the potential to have the building officially reopened and occupied by July 1 of this year.
The idea of repurposing the former elementary school into a multi-use childcare facility was the product of a mayor-appointed task force that’s been at work since before the school closed last June.