The last post in this Writer’s Workshop of Sullivan County by Ruby Pixman entitled “School Budget Vote: Better education opportunities for children translate into better lives for all” urged readers to vote yes for school budgets that are being considered in an election on Tuesday.
Mr./Ms. Pixman gave an admirable, but misguided argument that voting for the bloated budgets and the various new construction projects being proposed was necessary to improve our future as a community. He acknowledged that taxes obviously will go up, but we had to keep the big picture in mind when funding our children’s education.
While his or her argument was righteous, it was also misleading. The big picture is that our educational system in Sullivan County is broken. There are several valid reasons to vote NO on Tuesday.
Tomorrow’s vote is our only way of protesting an extremely antiquated and very expensive system of funding our children’s education in Sullivan County. It’s the only real means for overtaxed voters to protest bad budgets, bad administrators, and bad educational products. Sullivan County taxes are too high and much of the blame lies with the school districts.
Many of the school districts have presented budgets where the 2% tax cap is being met. But what they don’t tell you is that they are depleting their reserves, some very significantly, that are meant to cover contingency costs in case of emergencies and to help prop bond ratings.
Remember when our county government gave us zero budget increases year after year, then ran out of money? Now every year is a crisis when budgeting there, and voters are facing double digit increases year after year. We will be facing that soon in our school districts
Unlike the old days, teachers and administrators are paid very, very well. The older teachers get health benefits for life after they retire, and the rest of them are given extremely good benefits that cost taxpayers a fortune. On our dime, they have become the true, upper class citizens of our county.
It’s cynical and terribly misleading to tell voters that costs in school districts can be kept under 2% a year while the cost of these salaries and benefits continue to explode.
What these administrators are doing are kicking the tax increase can down the road. So those small increases should not be voted for now because we will pay dearly for it in two, three years. It’s plainly bad governance.
By the way, did you hear or read about anyone in these school districts freezing, or taking a cut in pay recently, like most in the private sector have done over the years? That would be a reason to vote for a school budget.
Has there been any real discussion in reformulating how our school districts are formed? Some are too big and some are too small. I give credit to Roscoe, which is experimenting with Downsville next year in sharing a Superintendent. But why isn’t Livingston Manor, and even Liberty too, looking to join that effort? In terms of administration, shouldn’t there be one county district employing one superintendent, one school attorney, one school accountant, etc.?
For the amount of students in Sullivan County, we have too many school districts paying ridiculous salaries to both administrators and teachers. Why should an administrator of a school district with hundreds of children receive the same, if not more, salary than others who oversee school districts with thousands more children and personnel in other parts of the state?
The state education department released a report last week indicating how many administrators in school district are paid over a threshold of $126,000, a standard salary established for NYS education administrators. Here’s a table that shows what some of the administrators over that $126,000 are getting paid in the nine Sullivan County school districts.
Seriously, considering that all the Sullivan County school districts are minuscule compared to those in major cities, should administrators get paid over $200,000 in salary and benefits, particularly in these hard times? Sullivan County is not Scarsdale.
Let’s look at the stupid way we locally govern our educational system. Basically, our school boards are overseeing the administration of school districts without getting paid, who for the most part are led by the nose by administrators in formulating what policy remains to be formulated that is not dictated by the state education department, which is nil, and who sit on these boards without term limits and run basically unopposed term after term because no one wants these thankless, powerless jobs. There’s always a few ex teachers on these boards looking out for their fellow teachers interests too.
And finally, why are budget votes and school board elections held in May in the first place? Why aren’t they held in November with regular votes, when the majority of voters come out to vote on a number of races and issues? Is it because they don’t want many people voting in these elections and it allows administrators and teacher to drive their voters to the polls unchallenged?
The budgets you will be voting on tomorrow have been formulated by bureaucrats following hundreds, if not thousands of idiotic rules, laws, and mandates from Albany that give them little if no discretion to cut costly, inefficient programs and personnel that don’t deliver a fine educational product to our children.
I’m not a tea bagger, but the basic premise that our government, and educational system too, is broken is truly reflected in all of the school budgets being presented for a vote Tuesday in Sullivan County.
Vote No tomorrow on school budgets tomorrow and send the message that you are tired of paying too much in taxes, that you are tired of the waste and inefficiency, and that you are tired of not getting the educational value that is necessary to truly give our children a brighter future.