3/22/2010Posted by MJ
Buffalo News reported on the school districts response to residents' displeasure over the recommended budget.
Two school closings, extracurricular program cuts, a 40-position reduction and a nearly 12 percent tax levy increase. Superintendent Terry Ann Carbone’s money-saving plan is unpopular with city school district residents — but the School Board isn’t going to change it.What a productive way to engage the tax base. I think they are missing the point. The displeasure is not just over this years budget but also the ones that have led up to it.
And if voters think they can force changes, they’d better think again....
Lockport was hit with a proposed $3.9 million cut in promised state aid. Another $4 million in inflationary costs leaves the district with a $7.9 million budget hole. The budget — along with its unpopular school closings and tax levy increase— will go to voters May 18, but they have less input than they may think.
If they vote the budget down, the result would be more cuts or a higher tax levy.
“The public thinks if they vote down the budget, we can’t close schools, and that’s not true,” board Vice President John A. Linderman said at a meeting earlier this month. “They really only have a say in a small piece of the budget.”
When the public rejects a school budget, the district is forced to go to a contingency plan based on the consumer price index. This year, the CPI is zero, and the district would be forced to scale back to a zero percent spending increase.
“Last year, our budget was $77 million,” Sandell said. “We are presenting a $77.4 million budget this year. If the public votes no, we have to find a way to make up $400,000. That would be through cuts, a tax levy increase or a combination.”If only we knew this several years ago we could have voted every budget down and forced them to keep a zero spending growth budget (as opposed to a zero growth tax rate.) The state funding increases and temporary stimulus funding could have went to temporarily ease our tax burden instead of letting the budget grow in an economic period that it should not have been growing in.
Lesson learned. Would systematically voting down budgets (forcing minimal gorwth in spending) year after year force the district to make the structural changes needed as contracts (from top to bottom) come up over the next several years?
I realize it's only zero beacuse the CPI is zero this year. I wonder how the budget compares to the CPI over the past decade or so?
LUSJ article on the topic.