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.)