School budget votes are exactly one month away. This is another installment about what districts and their NYSUT locals are doing across the state to get budgets passed.
Faced with having to eliminate programs for students, the Tully school board could only cut up to a certain point. On May 15 they will submit a $17.7 million budget that does not include all existing programs. Then they ask voters to decide what, if anything else, they will pay for. Here’s the link to the Syracuse Post-Standard article about it.
While that article cites school board sources that no other district is doing this, I know that the Oneonta district is. In addition to the budget vote, Proposition 1 in Oneonta is whether or not to keep all four elementary schools in the district, at a cost of an additional 5.15 percent to the tax levy. Here’s a link to one article and here’s a link to the district’s website and budget info. I also have heard of some rural districts doing the same, but I have no links to share.
Tully Teachers Association President Suzanne Hardy said her membership agrees with the district’s strategy.
“It gives the taxpayers a voice on programming in their schools,” Hardy said.
To recap, the Tully district in central New York, like many across the state, is cutting staff and programs, while teachers have been sacrificing. (That’s one other spot the article erred. Tully teachers agreed to a 0 percent raise next school year, not this year.) But none of it is enough.
So, 60 percent of the voters must vote “yes” on the budget and 60 percent must vote “yes” on any of the three propositions:
- drivers education, K-7 enrichment program and non-mandated music programs, which will add 1.59 percent to the tax levy increase,
- cheerleading, environmental club, golf, indoor track and community use of the high school fitness center , which adds 0.46 percent to the tax levy increase, or
- three buses at 0.81 percent to the tax levy increase.
What may work for Tully may not be a good strategy for all. Tully is a small district and they are confident they are getting their message out. However, having lots of propositions on a ballot could confuse voters. Psychology research tells us that when people are forced to make a choice when they are confused, they tend to disagree. That means unless a district does an excellent job explaining the choices on the ballot, it could generate some otherwise needless”no” votes.
Another question is what if the overall budget fails but the spending proposition for sports passes? This will require schools to fund the spending in the proposition but they won’t be able to raise the tax levy to fund the spending so they end up on a contingency budget. Yes, districts do get another chance to pass the budget, but what if that also fails? Then most likely it will create additional program cuts to the base academic program. Would voters understand that distinction when they step into the voting booth?
Local President Hardy has been working nonstop on this issue and believes the community will support the basic budget at a high margin. What the community supports beyond that is up to the voters. We’ll keep you updated.