May 21, 2008

School Budget Vote

OK, while this board has many spirited opinions running the gamut on a host of issues, I think collectively we have all agreed that property taxes in WNY are a problem and that school taxes, as the biggest portion of the bill, need to be dealt with. Now, the disagreement would be on how that happens (consolidation, more state aid, switch to income or sales rather than property taxes, etc.)

So, against that backdrop, I'm a bit surprised that virtually all school districts in WNY had their budget adopted. I'm not saying that is a bad thing...far from it. But what is the disconnect (myself included) from complaining about property taxes and continuing to adopt these budgets? Is it because we all think our districts are doing OK? Is it the state aid kept the tax increases to a minimum? Have we all come to recognize these votes are a farce?

And while I'm on the topic, isn't it about time that the election of school board members got moved to November with the rest of the elections so a greater percentage of the population voted for these people?

30 comments:

Frank DeGeorge said...

Hobbes, school board elections absolutely need to be moved to November. These elections always boil down to the teacher candidates versus the anti-tax candidates while the vast majority of us who want a balance between those two left out.

Anonymous said...

Just saw the Tonawanda News and read that Dan Riveras favorite candidate Scott Schultz came out on the short end of the School Board vote last night. In response to Frank I think you are correct and I hope the new Board members in NT are those types of representatives.

Anonymous said...

I have said this before- where is the outrage from the taxpayers? School taxes are the BIGGEST source of the taxes we pay in this county. If people don't want to be one of the highest taxed counties in the nation, then why do they continue to support the school budgets?

I say "they" because I voted AGAINST my school budget. With increased State aid, there is absolutely no justification for the budget my school board presented.

Of course, as usual, the local print media is silent on this issue.

The Lockport Journal has a lot to say about taxes, but not a single word about the crap our school boards served us in this county!

Anonymous said...

As is always the case taxes go up while Administrators salaries continue to get increased. Crazy how this happens in most local districts while enrollment continues to decrease. Maybe the best solution would be consolidating districts so there is less Administrative staff needed.

Anonymous said...

The enrollment versus spending issue is a good one. All of these districts are losing enrollment and the state should be stepping in and forcing them to right size. They should close buildings where appropriate and strategically plan for what their future captial needs will be a decade down the road before they buy new equipment.

Anonymous said...

The reason that people support school budgets is because they perceive value in those expenditures. They also have a direct say in the spending which has more than a little to do with how that money is spent. If all of our tax money were used as effectively as school taxes, we would be much better off. Administrators are an easy target but if you want to hold school taxes down then support the Gov. or any other politicians who are willing to step up to the unions (NYSUT in particular).

Somervisor said...

I feel the issue at hand here is not the budgets, but how the school districts are structured. We could vote down every budget from now until the end of time and not solve a thing. Until this bureaucracy we call education is structured to run like a business instead of a governmental agency, we will always pay too much for it.
Imagine competing private businesses that provide the same service having so many locations in such a small geographical area, all with their own managerial structure. They would collapse on themselves.

Not being one to identify a problem without suggesting a solution, I would propose that the districts consolidate at least to the county level. Why does each school have its own district and the associated cost and facilities? Why wouldn’t it be wiser to have the district be county wide with one managing Superintendent, one elected board and one central District Board Facility. The increased ability to negotiate teacher’s contracts alone will provide significant savings.

I know what some of you are thinking,” I don’t want to be responsible for supporting the City of Niagara Falls Schools!” I say fine. Let the City have its own school district. To have rural school all have their own district is unwise and financially irresponsible.

I feel my own school district (Barker), as well as our Superintendent (Roger Klatt) are doing an excellent job, but I am sure with consolidation and a proper business structure they could do an even better job and at a much lower cost.

Let’s face it, I’m a Reagan Republican. I believe in smaller government.

Richard Meyers

Anonymous said...

I guess the voters are finally sick and tired of salaries and benefits that are being paid to teachers and school employees as was the case in NT vote last night as 2 of the 3 candidates (Guido and Schultz) they supported were defeated. The 3rd candidate (DiBernardo) is claimng to be an "independent," but from the mailer I saw from the teachers union it clearly identifies him as one of their candidates of choice. Two of the top 3 vote getters (Carney and Robertson) have pledged to put the best interests of the students and taxpayers first. It will be intersting to see all this plays out and how the new board works together. I hope for the sake of the citys future this improves and a better working relationship is created with all the local elected officials at all levels of government both Democrat and Republican.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of Rivera I saw him at a meeting ans he really needs to lay off the hot dogs, pizza, wings and everything he is eating or he will have to start wearing tent instead of a trench coat. He should use the money he saves and buy a membership to Fitness 19.

Anonymous said...

I guess the voters are finally sick and tired of salaries and benefits that are being paid to teachers and school employees as was the case in NT vote last night as 2 of the 3 candidates (Guido and Schultz) they supported were defeated. The 3rd candidate (DiBernardo) is claimng to be an "independent," but from the mailer I saw from the teachers union it clearly identifies him as one of their candidates of choice. Two of the top 3 vote getters (Carney and Robertson) have pledged to put the best interests of the students and taxpayers first. It will be intersting to see how all this plays out and how the new board works together. I hope for the sake of the citys future this improves and a better working relationship is created with all the local elected officials at all levels of government both Democrat and Republican.

Anonymous said...

I hope Carney and Robertson do better than Burruano and Glatz did. Both groups were supported by Henry Wojtaszek except Burruano and Glatz gave away the ship to the superintendent along with the rest of the board, but then again the fliers forgot to mention that. Remember the superintendent? Additional money, 100% of his health insurance now and the same retirement that Dr George got and it was a unanimous vote.

Anonymous said...

From what I understand comments have been made that the Superintendent is rtying to getn his contract extended with this Board as they appear to be weak and an easy pushover.

Frank DeGeorge said...

School boards are simply unqualifed to negotiate with superintendents and get taken for a ride every time.

I agree with the person who said budgets pass because people see value there. Unlike so much that goes on in government, people at least perceive they know how schools are run and where the money is going.

Richard Strongbridge, Ph. D said...

It's no secret why school budgets pass---they pass because parents vote for them. Parents vote for them because the schools plan plays, art shows, conferences on the night of the election. Wow! Imagine that.

Also, some school districts have their contingency budgets set at a higher level than the regular budget, so if you vote yes, you are actually voting for a tax decrease.

Rufus said...

Richard is right on the money. The vote has essentially become meaningless and even the most anti-tax person is not against the things that get cut in a contigency budget...transportation, sports, etc.

Our elected leaders are too fearful to enact the necessary top-down reforms that will structurally change the way education is delivered in this state and thereby provide a better eduation at lower cost.

Take special education. No one has figured out a cost effective way to deliver services to this population and the costs are huge.

It lean budget years, routine maintenance on buildings and equipment is cut and things get so bad that districts undertake huge capital projects to make up for the lack of upkeep because Albany won't help with the routine stuff but loves shiny new additions.

I could go on and on but I think most people know what's up. The one group that gets ragged on the most...teachers...are the ones who could be leading the way because they see the waste and abuse. But these anti-tax nuts like to attack teachers rather than work with them.

Anonymous said...

Doc, I disagree. If parents were voting they would constantly keep old board members who keep giving the programs. The board members are being voted out because people want change. The problem is if you get a good board member, the administration only has to bide their time before they're voted out and they can go back to the old ways. You say board members aren't educated, it's the voter who aren't educated. The only ones that are educated are the administrators but no one sees it.

Richard Strongbridge, Ph.D said...

As evidence from the vote the other night, very few incumbents lost. But you don't have to take my word for it, just look at the facts.

Anonymous said...

Hobbes,

You should check your facts and do your home work. In some areas you don't have a clue what you're talking about. I would love to vote against my school budget, but in Royalton Hartland and other areas as well, if the original budget was voted down the contigency budget called for a LARGER tax increase then the original. Does that make sense? No, it's game playing by an administrator who isn't worth the hair piece on his head. It's playing it smart in a warped world.

Anonymous said...

I sat on the BOE for three years back when people ran for the kids, tax payers and then the teachers, when did it become democrat or republican first and kids last?

Richard Strongbridge, Ph.D said...

Administrator's have nothing to do with the contingency budget, the contingency budgets are set by the state. They are set at (generally) 4% above the previous years budgets. This year it is 3.36%.

To get to a contingency budget you take your base budget from the previous year, multiply that by the CPI which is 3.36% for the 08-09 year, then you determine the amount of contingency and non-contingency items that will be removed and check the administrative component to assure it stays within the statutory limits.

While their hairpieces may be completely ridiculous and totally their fault, the contingency budget is determined by the bad hair pieces in Albany.

You can check Chapter 436 of the laws of 1997 for more specifics.

Anonymous said...

PhD...look deeper and I think you will find that those calculations limit the c-budget, not set it. The local board still has some leeway in determining what will be included in a c-budget.

WilliamWallace said...

Voucher system will solve the property tax problem.

Anonymous said...

Well said anon, phD needs to check his facts now. And of course the state set the cont budget DUH. Furthermore it's not that simple either, you have to remove your bonds and projects to come up with your figure. Plus the state dictates what you can cut and what you can. A contingent budget can cause more harm with less tax effect because a contingent budget effects 100% of the kids, not teachers not administrators, not facaulty, get the picture.

Anonymous said...

Ridding the budgets of special interests will too: like insane retirement pensions, fees for events that 1% of students take part in but all must pay, and a bureaucratic nightmare with an administration the size of the student body itself.

Anonymous said...

From one anon to another, the Doc has his facts straight. Doc never said they have to go to the extreme top of the cap, which would likely be more than the original proposed budget

Jimmy T said...

I think a lot of the blame for school expenses and taxes can be laid at the feet of Albany. Every year they pass along more mandates but dont fund them. They (Legislators) pat themselves on the back for a job well done by protecting kids with new gadgets and policies, then turn their backs on the schools and say good luck funding these programs.

The same can be said for the Federal government. They mandated NCLB and the schools have to adhere to the demands set forth. If they dont, they lose funding and status. But they dont get reimbursed for all the new expenses associated with the new policies.

Im all for that Property Tax Cap thats being floated around as long as they (legislators) pick up all the costs associated with the mandates they add on each year.

Jimmy T said...

Dr. Strongbridge is definitely right about the contingency budgets. Thats the law, in terms of setting the ceiling. He never said the district had to adhere to the maximum limit.

He was explaining that it isnt all on the schools, the state is involved as usual...

Frank DeGeorge said...

Jimmy T, I agee with much of your premise, but unlike a lot of government mandates that get pushed down, school districts have received huge increases in aid in recent years yet still do not seem capable of holding the line on taxes.

Their state aid goes up a ton and then they pat themselves on the back for only raising taxes by 3 or 4 percent. Hell, how about a tax reduction when the state is filling the kitty?

School districts also love a reassessment so they can say the rate is only going up a little but in reality your tax bill is going up significantly. Whether it's a reassessment increase or a rate increase it's still costing me more than it should.

Anonymous said...

Much the same as all government bodies when it comes to needing more revenue to spend, take the easy way to generate it and increase the assessment on property values. The correct thing to do when assessments go up is keep spending at a level equal to the previous years budget and lower the tax rate per $1,000 proportionately so more revenues (tax dollars) are not generated.

Jimmy T said...

In a perfect world a budget would stay the same year to year, but prices go up every year. Oil prices, food prices, textbooks, electric rates, gas rates, etc. Everything goes up every year.

I would love to be paying the same amount in bills and groceries that I did last year. But that is impossible.

Do schools need to use more fiscal constraint? Of course, but there are a lot of other factors involved that are out of their control.