Taxing Tuesday: May 15 matters

Unions across the state are telling us about the budget cuts their districts are facing. Hearing about cuts makes me think of cards. Hearing about just the three cases I dealt with yesterday makes me realize these schools have a cold deck. (For the non-card players, that means the cards are specifically rigged against them. They can not win.)

“The cuts to students in my rural community are devastating,” said Schoharie TA President Martin Messner, noting that one must really look past the numbers (because much of the aid to his flood-ravaged district is earmarked for emergency generators!) “When you get down to the details on how this budget impacts the classroom, our district’s cuts include; reducing full-day kindergarten to half-day, elementary class size increases, physical education class size increases, cuts to social studies, science, library, music, guidance counseling, social work and library services. But wait, it gets worse, because even after all those cuts, our district still has a $343,000 budget hole to fill.”

Sad to say this isn’t even considered news in Schoharie’s rural community, so I can’t share a link. Here’s a link to coverage about what’s happening in a neighboring district, Cobleskill-Richmondville, and the scenario in January.

Then let’s move to far western New York. Here’s a link to one report about what Salamanca faces.
Consider this for the Cattaraugus County district:

  • Its proposed 3.3 percent increase in state aid this year over last is still less than what it received in 2010-11.
  • The 2 percent tax levy cap limits the amount schools can raise without seeking a 60 percent yes vote on their May 15 budget vote, regardless of what students need.
  • The district will cut between 18.5 to 27.5 instructional positions. So classes will have more students and those students will have fewer course offerings, support services, counseling, library services and many supports.

Salamanca TA President Christine Leavor and her members will be at a board meeting tonight to plead the case to not cut the future.

Then there is Broadalbin-Perth. The school board voted Monday night to abolish 34 staff positions to help close a $2.4 million gap in 2012-13. Here’s one link. One reason the gap there is so large is because its state aid was actually cut by $160,000.

Whether it’s the Adirondacks, western New York or the Capital District, everyone agrees that none of these cuts are good for students nor the community, but they do cut taxes. One thing you can do, sign the petition. Ask lawmakers to restore funds from competitive grants to basic aid. It’s a small step but it will help.

So what does this mean for May 15? That’s the date most school districts across the state will submit budgets for voter approval.  How can we ask folks, in good conscience, to say yes to budgets that hurt the future? To be blunt, we have to. Because the deck is stacked against our schools and our students thanks to the tax cap law. If proposed budgets fail, districts face a 0 percent tax levy increase.

Coming next Tuesday, we’ll profile at least one district that will seek to override the 2 percent tax levy cap.

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8 Comments

  1. Joe February 28, 2012 at 4:02 pm #

    South Huntington has a 7 million dollar cut with the tax cap

    • Betsy Sandberg February 28, 2012 at 4:21 pm #

      Joe,
      Thanks for this. What’s up for cuts? It’s so tough to find out info on Long Island schools ever since Newsday put up their paywall.

  2. Martin Messner February 28, 2012 at 7:24 pm #

    Perhaps its time they repeal the undemocratic 2% tax cap and go back to majority rule….like whats worked in this state for a couple hundred years. Gotta love it how a minority of the population can deny students a decent education.

    • T. Payne February 29, 2012 at 12:23 pm #

      Really? “Undemocratic”? Some feel it unfair when unions elect board members, who in turn acquiesce to union demands with taxpayers less than fully represented. Kinda like the fox guarding the hen house.

      People are more than willing to provide students a “decent education”. What we object to is out of control salaries, pensions & benefits the rest of don’t have and annual tax hikes at multiples of inflation. We object to layer after layer of highly paid administrators and NY’s top of the chart per pupil expense, which has caused a crushing tax burden. We object to contracts with automatic raise provisions which don’t factor in budgetary reality and, after looking online, view claims of being underpaid with deserved skepticism.

      The tax cap came into being because people were sick of being taxed out of their homes and NYS. NY already lost 2 seats in the House. Gov. Cuomo is right, NYS has no future as solely a leader in taxes.

      The moderator here will probably never allow this post to stay, but I offer it to show how others think & as a likely futile effort to engage in dialogue. We agree that NYS should lead in education. Throwing money we don’t have at better than private sector salaries, pensions & benefits isn’t the solution. I invite you to show me where I am wrong.

      • Mike March 1, 2012 at 1:54 pm #

        TPayne – Im with you 100%. Its the typical mantra: Any even minute reduction in the collasal amounts of money we throw at education is automatically deemed an attack on kids and their future. The kids have no future if their parents are broke and have to leave their homes. Asalways, its always tax, tac, tax…NEVER do you hear about reductions in the rather bloated benefits that the employees get working inthe school system. Its always “about the kids…” except when the rubber meets the road then its about the adults in the school system protecting their extremely generous pay packages.

        To Donna – If the entire system cabved in it would only mean that we can start over again and make education REALLY about the kids. Just hire teachers who want to teach and leave out all the fluff. Pay them good salaries but they can take care of their own retirements. Completely abandon the outdated and overpriced unions which protect the adults, not the kids. Im all for it.

  3. Donna February 28, 2012 at 7:28 pm #

    I wonder if NYS continues to make cuts in state aid that cannot be offset due a tax cap, how long will it take for the entire public education system to cave in?

    Mass did this tax cap thing but then the state kicked in huge amounts of $. Where is our $ from the state?

  4. Sarah February 28, 2012 at 8:35 pm #

    The governor won’t give us any significant money or repeal the tax cap law. He needs these squeeze tactics to make the case for his tier six pension changes (another devastating blow to education in NY).

  5. Martin March 1, 2012 at 10:20 pm #

    T. Payne,

    Yes. Undemocratic. As in that old thing that says if the majority of people want something in this country and vote for it…thats what we do. Kinda the system we’ve had in place for hundreds of years. Democracy…ya know? That thing where you go into the booth and pull the lever, check the box, use the machine? And then whatever or whoever gets the most votes wins? Yea that….we don’t have that anymore for budget votes.

    You advocate for citizens to no longer have the right to vote? Excellent. Lets pick and choose who votes. Of course we will need to tear up that little document called the Constitution that you tea party folks love so much…but meh…who needs something like that anyway cause it only just raises our taxes.

    People are more than willing to provide students a “decent education”. This is the one part of your post you got right. So you prob. should have left it at that. NYS passed a record amount of school budgets last year despite the Governor telling everyone to vote them down. Opps.

    Your attack on the Step Salary Schedule is also uneducated. So lets do some simple math shall we? 30 people on 30 steps. Average Salary $50,000. As one person goes off Step and becomes a retiree another comes on. Average Salary for the district…wait for it….$50,000. Increase for taxpayer….0 dollars.

    New York State didn’t in fact lose 2 house seats because of a shrinking population. We grew in the last census. We just didn’t grow as fast as other states. But rapid growth population growth isn’t always a good thing. Just ask China.

    The Moderator here did in fact post your comments,so your wrong again. But I think they did it as a favor to people like me who enjoy tearing down your fox news world.

    In regards to your comments about Salaries, Pensions and benefits. The problem isn’t with the public sector. The problem is that the private sector isn’t providing them despite making record profits. You would have us all sink back into the guilded age with robber barrons who have it all and the rest just pick up some table scraps and hope we can survive. But that isn’t what made our country a Superpower, it was a strong and viable middle class.

    I think I’ve showed you were your wrong on just about your entire post. Oh, except the part where you said “People are more than willing to provide students a “decent education”.

    I challange you to stop watching fox news as your one source of information. Start looking at multiple media sources and most importantly think for yourself. Take care. And remember..vote yes on your local school budget.

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