May 21 Matters: One week to go until school budget votes

It’s now one week before most school districts submit their annual budgets to voters.

NYSUT United brought you the news more than two weeks ago that fewer districts are trying to override the tax cap and that many are staying well within the cap. That story was based on a NYSUT survey of districts before the deadline to adopt budgets, and 39 told us they would try to override. A lot can change and now only 27 districts are trying to override.

Here are some other sobering facts from a different NYSUT survey. This is unscientific. It is based on reports from the field about how many layoffs are expected in districts as well as how many retirements won’t be filled. (Attrition is the technical term for that.) We are hearing that a total of 3,603 jobs are being sacrificed this year across the state. The complete breakdown is 1,660 layoffs with 1,156 attrition; for support staff it’s 555 support layoffs and 231 attrition.

Reading these numbers reminds me of what the Bethlehem Teachers Association did in 2011 to make the point about layoffs. (They held a press conference where no one could could sit in any of the seats, because each seat was symbolic of the more than 700 Capital District job cuts that year.)

There’s no school auditorium in the Capital District that has the 1,932 empty chairs needed to convey the total number of sacrificed jobs in this region over the past three years. (My math has 1,596 jobs lost through layoffs and attrition from the past two years and then add this year’s projections of 119 teacher layoffs and 40 attrition, and 167 support staff layoffs and 10 attrition.) The largest auditorium in our area has a capacity of 1,502, I’m told.

As a result  many will go to the polls to vote on budgets that mean larger class sizes, or fewer Advanced Placement opportunities or music and art courses. But the alternative, when a budget goes down, is far worse. So, please, make every effort to vote on your local school budget next Tuesday, May 21.

No longer can districts go on “contingency” budgets. Thanks to that property tax cap law, districts can not increase the tax levy one penny if voters don’t approve the budget. (Yes, districts get two chances.)

What also concerns a number of public education advocates is the cost for things far out of the control of a municipality or school district. That’s what the Niagara-Wheatfield schools will have to confront after a fire at the elementary school caused severe damage yesterday. Yes, there are no exemptions for damages to school buildings for floods or fire, nor are their exemptions for things like heating costs or diesel to run school buses. Here’s the link to guidance on what can be exempted.

You may recall, NYSUT has filed a lawsuit against the tax cap.

Feedback or comments on what your local union is doing to get out the vote? Email to bsandber@nysutmail.org, call (800) 342-9810 ext. 6283 or comment below.

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One Comment

  1. Working man May 15, 2013 at 7:30 pm #

    One week to go until school budget votes. Yes I am voting. NO NO and NO

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