By now you probably know about our governor’s proposed budget. As a resident of NYS and taxpayer, I’m glad we have a governor who is attacking the State deficits head on. I understand how difficult it has to be to get this huge machine of NYS under control with regard to spending and special interest groups.
As a school superintendent, I also understand it. The taxpayers of the district are never far from my mind. The school aid cut for RCS is larger than we expected at 5.98% ($596,209) but smaller than that of many of our neighboring districts.
Thanks to the planning of our fiscally conservative administration and BOE, we have a fund balance that will help us through this year. We also offered the retirement incentive last year of which 12.5% of our teachers took advantage, bringing payroll savings to the district. Those savings coupled with the savings from the elimination of a more expensive health insurance plan (PPO) for our Administrative, Teaching and Support Staff groups puts us in good stead for the 2011-12 budget year. For now.
No small, rural district such as ours can sustain programs for kids with cuts like this from state aid over more than a few years. We don’t have “extras” to cut like larger, wealthier districts have–we don’t have a violin teacher or an equestrian program or elective teachers. We have a solid basic program with Art and Music, Technology and Athletics and we need to sustain those opportunities for our students.
The governor must include proposals that offer significant cost reductions for school districts: capping the amount districts must spend on health insurance, adding a less costly pension tier or requiring pension contributions from all of us, reductions in the cost of health insurance and relief from Triborough, the state’s law which severely limits a school district’s ability to achieve concessions in contract negotiations. Districts and organizations from across the State who represent us have been lobbying for this kind of relief. All of which were noticeably absent from the Governor’s budget. Hand in hand with the state aid cuts, they would have been much easier to manage.