Wednesday, December 5, 2012

State Aid Rhetoric

Have you noticed the rhetoric about state aid ramping up in the last couple of months?  It seems that school administrators have decided that the only way to deal with the perceived "fiscal crisis" of their districts is to make the financial condition of the schools look very bad hoping to get the public to put pressure on politicians to give the schools more money.  As usual, they are predicting that all of the extras, sports, clubs, arts and music will have to be cut.  Elementary class sizes will get large.  Electives in the high school will be out.  They do this because administrators know that this is what will inspire the public to vote for higher taxes.

Every school district in this state has known since last year at budget time that this year's fiscal picture would be the same as last year.  Governor Cuomo indicated then that there might be a little more money, but not much.  Now, after Hurricane Sandy, there may not be any more extra money.  It is very likely that the State will be forced to cover some of the costs of the damage, particularly for those schools with significant damage from the storm.  In addition, they lost revenue from businesses which were shut down for several days.

Have administrators spent time considering how to re-organize the way they do business?  Have school boards engaged in conversations about how they might be able to offer educational services differently, or better? I don't think so.  The Potsdam School Board's Finance Committee requested information about different middle school scenarios months ago and haven't received anything yet.

Leaders at the Canton School District say that they will be insolvent within the next two years.  Well, how much negotiating have they done with their teacher's union?  It is my understanding that the teaching staff don't pay a dime toward the cost of their health insurance premiums.  How much do their taxpayers pay toward the cost of their children's education? For 2012, about $4.00 less per thousand than Potsdam.  That means, for a $100,000 house, a Canton resident's school taxes are $400 less than the Potsdam taxpayer's. 

The Potsdam Central School budget is almost $27 million dollars.  That is over $18,600 for each of 1450 students in the district.  We ought to be able to do a good job with that much money.  It is all a matter of priorities.

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