Thanks again for the administration and board for producing another editorial.
This time it comes from the Albany Times Union and not just the sinister gazette.
I can hardly wait for the headlines that state Schenectady Superintendent and Board President resign.
Pass the high fives and pats on the back.
First published in print: Sunday, June 21, 2009
Schenectady taxpayers had a heck of a choice last week: Pass a school budget with a 5.8 percent tax levy increase, or be socked with a contingency budget bearing a nearly 16 percent hike.
Some choice. The only surprise, perhaps, is that in the final count -- 1,001 to 954 -- so many people weren't intimidated by this fiscal arm-twisting and dared to vote no.
The last we heard, a contingency budget meant austerity. A contingency budget that calls for an increase in taxes that's nearly three times higher than what the approved budget would bring doesn't sound particularly austere. Nor does it sound like an accurate assessment of the district's minimal needs.
Such are the kinds of games, unfortunately, that some school boards play. While there are many board members across New York who serve faithfully and try to strike the admittedly difficult balance between helping to provide a quality education for children and at an affordable price for taxpayers, it seems that some lose sight of their duty. They become extensions of school administrators. If that was the purpose of a school board, we would skip the middleman and just let superintendents run the show.
Clearly, Schenectady's citizens need a school board that will deal with them honestly. We leave it to civic-minded citizens who care about both education and the affordability of their community to step forward next year and strive to bring some true representation to their board of education.
But what happened in Schenectady this year highlights a broader issue -- the need to fix the legal loopholes that allow something this absurd to happen. Assemblymen George Amedore, R-Rotterdam, and James Tedisco, R-Schenectady, are taking a stab at that with a bill they're calling the School Budget Vote Fairness Act. Its basic goal is to ensure that contingency budgets can't be higher than the spending proposals that districts put before voters. The bill would, among other things, ban districts from boosting projected costs in the contingency budget, as Schenectady did, with inflated enrollment projections.
It would also limit the increase in contingency budgets to four percent, which may be too strict a rule. The law now generally caps contingency budgets at four percent or 120 percent of inflation, a more flexible standard.
The Legislature can certainly tinker with that idea and come up with a bill that won't leave either school districts or taxpayers struggling, while at the same time requiring districts like Schenectady to play fair, not fast and loose with the figures.
Schenectady voters pass a budget that spares them from even bigger tax hikes.
School districts can't be permitted to manipulate numbers and citizens this way.
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