It's almost August in Potsdam and interesting activities are often taking place in the district at the Potsdam Central Schools. Families find out what the real class size will be for their children. Students find out, for better or worse, who their teacher will be and if any of their friends will be in the same classroom. And, August is when taxpayers find out how much money they will be paying for school taxes for the upcoming year.
It has already been interesting at the School Board level. Board members elected Chris Cowen as Board President, a seemingly fine choice. For me, it is strange because he is the spouse of one of the district's senior teachers and he often misses meetings (for legitimate reasons). You might expect that the Board Members would carefully consider who would be Vice-President, since he (no woman is eligible for the position) would be acting as President on a regular basis. However, according to press reports, the decision was made by the flip of a coin! In the end, Tom Hobbs (another spouse of a PCS employee from CSEA) won the toss. Several teacher hires took place in July. How many more will there be in August? We know for sure that the administrator for the CSE office will be one of them, as Mr. Jadlos tendered his resignation, effective August 31st.
What will the tax rate be? Monthly budget reports presented at the July meeting (dated 6/29/12) showed almost $300,000 more in unspent funds than was predicted during the budget process. And, there is an unexpected additional refund of monies (probably from BOCES expenditures) in the amount of $200,000. That is half a million dollars more than we were led to believe when the spending plan was presented to the public in May. So what do they do with the money? They can put it in the fund balance, which will likely make that fund over the legal limit; they can "hide" it in reserves, a legal way to move excess funds from the fund balance; or they can return it to the taxpayers by reducing the tax rate. The last option is almost never done, on the premise that the taxpayers who approved the budget expected to pay what they voted on so they might as well.
It will be business as usual at the Potsdam Central Schools in August. For once, I would love to see the taxpayers get a break. Gas prices are going up again, unemployment in St. Lawrence County went up to 11% this month, and the County Legislature is already talking about exceeding the tax cap in their next budget year. Maybe we will be surprised. I do love surprises!