Marlboro Director of Business and Finance/Transportation Patrick Witherow has resigned to take a position with the Minisink Valley Central School District.
Witherow earned his undergraduate degree in Biology and Political Science at SUNY Binghamton and went on to earn a Masters Degree in Business Administration from Arizona State University.
Witherow’s service on the Board of Education for the Port Jervis City Schools gave him insight into the business operations of a school district. This eventually led him to become certified as a School District Business Leader from SUNY New Paltz.
In late 2011 Witherow was hired as the Purchasing Agent for Orange-Ulster BOCES in Chester and in August 2013 Witherow was hired by the Marlboro School District. He said he wore “a lot of hats,” during his tenure – he was the district’s Purchasing Agent, Director of Transportation, the Records Management Officer, overseer of the Food Service and the School Facilities and compiled the annual school budget; “really all aspects of school district operations; I think the Business Office is one of the most diverse offices when it comes to school district operations.”
Witherow recalled that when he was hired there was significant turmoil in the district.
“They had just laid off a third of their staff and just closed the two k-2 buildings in Middle Hope and Milton. The district had lost a third of its value in one year, which is unheard of, going from $1.9 billion to $1.3 billion.”
Witherow immediately began seeking financial assistance from then NYS Sen. William Larkin and NYS Assemblyman Frank Skartados. He was successful in procuring two years of $4 million in emergency aid and in year 3 he was able to secure an additional $3.2 million through prior year adjustments from a tax certiorari case. He said these funds filled a large financial gap until state aid caught up and reflected the reduced value in the district.
Witherow said he is “incredibly proud” of his tenure in Marlboro.
“It was an extremely challenging time for Marlboro,” he recalled. “The financial turmoil was tremendously disruptive but because of that disruption Marlboro was able to come back stronger than what they were prior to that,” he said. “The first two years were very difficult because of the incredible loss in the value of the power plants that shifted significantly the tax burden to the homeowners.”
Witherow said in the first year there was a 15% tax increase and the following year a 14.9% increase occurred.
“We still passed budgets and the community was supportive of that and I think that is because we were open books,” he said. “Everything was discussed openly and publicly at board meetings because it was really imperative that everybody understand in layman’s terms what was happening and what our plan was to move forward and fix things.”
Witherow said because of the district’s transparency the public supported the direction they were taking.
“I just think you need to really be respectful of the taxpayer when you are looking at any type of program expansion to really be certain we’re squeezing value out of every dollar that’s being spent,” he said.
Witherow started this week as the Assistant Superintendent for Business at Minisink Valley Central School District.
“They have about 3,500 students and a $95 million budget,” he said. “They have a self-funded health plan, a workers comp plan, and they own their own bus fleet in a district that encompasses 100 square miles.” In comparison, Marlboro has about 1,930 students and a $58 million budget.
Witherow said leaving Marlboro, “is absolutely bittersweet because the district has a great team of people working there; in the Business Office, the Central Administration, the teachers and the support staff. It really is a great place to work. While I’m happy that I get a chance to grow professionally I am somewhat sad to leave such an awesome team behind.”
Superintendent Michael Brooks said Witherow was instrumental in guiding the district through a difficult time.
“He shepherded the district through a very, very challenging fiscal time,” he said. “His vision is the piece that set a foundation.”
Brooks said Witherow’s personality was an important factor in his success.
“He had a drive to just stay as calm as could be and keep on trudging toward that goal of fiscal stability,” he said. “You’ve got to capture the skills of people in your system so that you all can pull toward what I say all the time; rub the buffalo off the nickel before you spend it, and those people are the ones that assure that happens.”
Brooks said Witherow has left the district in a better place than when he arrived.
“Our fiscal position is stable, very strong and our financial rating improved last year, so we’re good.” he said.