As we alluded to previously, Governor Spitzer is planning to create a commission to study the possibility of capping school taxes. One of our readers saw that and emailed what turns out to be some fascinating information about one Niagara County school district. The information is quite lengthy so we will try to provide a synopsis. From what we have learned, this information came from a FOIL request of the Lockport City School District (LCSD) in 2005.
In the 1988-89 school year, the LCSD had 481 full-time employees. In the 2004-05 school year, the district had 728 full-time employees. That is an astounding 247 more full-time employees, or 51% more employees over that period.
In contrast, the number of students in the district in 1988-89 was 6,271. In 2004-05 the district's enrollment was 5,664. That is a decrease in enrollment of 607 students over the same period.
Over this span, the district received an astounding $411,312,462 in state aid. For those of you, like me, who don't like big numbers, that's over $400 MILLION in state aid.
There is much more to the information, but I think those numbers pretty much say it all. Enrollment has gone way down, the number of employees has gone way up, and over $400 mil in aid has flown into the district. Let us not forget that the $400 million does not include the millions the district pulls in from local school property taxes every single year.
So one has to ask: Where on earth is all of this money going? Where is the accountability for our tax dollars? Why is there not outrage over this? Is this the type of fiscal management that is rampant in our county school districts?
Tom Christy runs that joke of an organization, FAIR, that is supposed to be looking into budgets, costs, expenses, etc of local governments. Well, here you go, we've handed this one to you on a silver platter. This information is available to anyone and everyone who puts in a FOIL request from any district.
Even more disconcerting, where is the local print media? With this information readily available, why not do some investigative reporting. Tim Marren loves to hammer other governmental bodies over taxes. Send a reporter out to FOIL this information from every school district. If we're going to have a conversation about taxes, let's get to the heart of the matter and stop dancing around it.
Of course, that's only if we don't have to read more quips like "it's politics at its worst". In the meantime, I may start a fundraising effort for a billboard on Transit. Who else is in?