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Sunday, February 8, 2009

7%

Due to state budget woes, the school budget process schedule will be much earlier this year. Last Wednesday (February 4), Superintendent Rice presented her draft budget at the board of education meeting. The summary and power point are now posted on the district website.

The proposed increase in the tax levy is 6.99%. Some board members (in particular, Don Kerr and Patrick Rausch) reacted that in order to get the tax levy down to 5%, the budget would need further cuts and/or the district would need to generate more revenues. Steve Greenfield noted that while 7% is not a low figure, in comparison, many districts in the region are now considering double digit increases and we need to remember we are dealing with public education, not a consumption budget (e.g. the district can’t stop going the movies and out to dinner, like a household can). Rod Dressel pointed out, it is also very important to note that the increased levy is primarily a result of less money coming from the state, not more spending in the district.

This coming Wednesday, Feb 11, the board will continue their discussion of the budget. (Reminder: this is the same night as the Middle School renovation study presentation.) On February 25, the board is seeking public input and will host a community forum at the high school. Maria Rice will submit her revised budget on March 4.

In terms of cuts, there is one in particular I would argue against: the $7,000 allotted to the food services line which is/was meant to facilitate progression towards healthier foods served to the children in our schools. While $7K is not chump change, in a 48 million dollar budget, it is somewhat symbolic… and its retraction is very indicative of a lack of commitment to providing better food in our schools.

Areas where I would like to see more cuts are in administrative lines… I am sure we could unearth at least $7K in the board of education ($105K) and superintendent ($264K) lines.

As far as revenues, one of my biggest concerns is the proposal to start charging building use fees to non-school groups that use school facilities after 6pm on weekdays and on the weekends. *I believe* it was stated that these fees will be $30-45 per hour (it is not in the power point…). This could have a major impact on civic and sport activities in New Paltz and I am very concerned about the ripple effects this will have on the community.

These are just a few of the things that popped out at me upon my first perusal of the draft budget. I urge anyone concerned about the tax levy and the delivery of public education in New Paltz to take a look, and to then show up on February 25 for the community forum. The superintendent and school board have asked for our input – about spending cuts and revenue generation – and we need to take them up on their offer to listen to us.

(ps. Check out the file name of the power point. Very funny.)

9 comments:

Terence said...

For a long time I've been confused by the automatic association with more advanced education with increased competence, at least in education. Having a masters degree or a PhD doesn't automatically mean you will do your job better; it just means you have more education.

I don't believe education isn't valuable, but I have for a long time questioned the need to pay someone with a PhD to run the school district. The applicants expect a greater rate of pay with no guarantee that a better job will be done. This is also evident in union contracts that require a higher rate of pay for someone with a more advanced degree - it should be the job performance that determines pay, not the number of credit hours. Those with more advanced degrees may very well be more capable of teaching children (college professors notwithstanding), running districts, and the like; I don't think it should be assumed, however. Fine teachers without doctorates get a smaller paycheck than really bad ones who happen to be good students themselves. How does this benefit our children?

Although I've singled out the superintendent position, I'm speaking more about the mentality behind hiring decisions. The Board is hemmed in by inflexible employee management tools (tenure and required union membership) on one side and a public vote on the other, so taking a long, hard look at those costs which can be controlled is necessary.

Anonymous said...

The school budget is big mystery to me and I think all of you who are trying to tackle it. K.T. your links are great.

Does anyone know what the $2 million plus for debt service is about? Kitty Brown

Anonymous said...

Ooops - Terence I need your copy editor. I meant to say THANK above, not think. Kitty Brown

kt said...

Thanks Kitty.

As far as debt service, it may be related to the Lenape construction still.. not sure will have to find out.

I do know there is a plan to reduce the appropriated fund balance to $1m this coming year and progressively down to $0 in the next five or so years.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone reconsidered Swift's Modest Proposal to balance the budget this year? I mean, we have so many kids, doing nothing but COSTING us money. Surely we can sell them off, or at least rent them out for a modest fee. We don't have to eat them, as Swift suggested, just squeeze a little revenue out of them.

Think about it. Especially you families with more than two kids.

Otherwise, don't complain about your taxes going up!

I think Maria Rice has that as part of her proposal, just not the part in the powerpoint presentation.

Anonymous said...

Well, Ms. Gadfly, another thoughtful discussion. Whether you are on the school board's Christmas Card list or not, this is valuable to all of us who are parents in the district.

My suspicion is that if a business-minded pair of eyes looked over the detail of the school district's budget, we might find a lot more than 7K to work with. Sometimes what people in school systems view as vital may not seem as important to the community or the parents. This is after all the school district that was perfectly happy to scrap a wonderful historic building and spend double the money on a shiny new (unnecessary) one not even a year ago. I don't think healthy food is a compromise - did we start putting Canola oil in our cars when gas got expensive? Are we all heading to McDonald's now that grocery prices are creeping up (Value Menu, here I come!). For all of us who police our kids candy consumption, junk food consumption, processed food intake...don't give them whiskey, beer or wine (even when it's tempting b/c of the noise levels) - do we even have to explain this to the school board? Gosh, beer is cheaper than orange juice, why not just give them that as part of school lunches?? And all those irritating educational films, why, when you can buy Pulp Fiction - a classic indeed - for less than $20 at Blockbuster pre-viewed.

Taking this to its extreme...it is kinda absurd to choose to cut funding for healthy food when there are NO DOUBT more logical, relatively painless ways to make up the difference and then some. I am sure the Gadfly and I could find a good $20K if they let us at the books....

Jen Z, Devoted Fan of Gadfly

metsgirl1030 said...

Please consider Poughkeepise school district superintendent's proposal not to accept his raise and encouraged all 900 employees to do the same, saving the district thousands of dollars therfore would not be able to cut programs and after school activities.
Would this district consider not taking raises...

Anonymous said...

Dan says "top-notch analysis KT!"

kt said...

healthy foods healthy kids has an online petition.. please sign here:

http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/ntfnow/