While this letter will be too late to appear in the newspaper before the School Budget Vote, I would like to comment on your recent editorial.
I agree that there have been very few letters either for or against the budget.
I also agree that the lack of communication is a major part of the problem. The Board of Education meetings, which usually only have a handful of teachers and taxpayers attending, have provided little solid information regarding the contingency budget or its implications for this vote. The deadline for submissions to your paper occurs the day before the meetings. The mailing with the budget and vote specifics did not get to taxpayers until after the last BOE meeting before the vote.
If you look at the official budget information on the School District web site, the only contingency information on the Superintendent’s web site (there is none on the BOE site) incorrectly shows the “Proposed Budget v. Contingent Budget” as “53,3278,601 v. 53,554,001” (https://www.saugerties.k12.ny.us/43891029152348110/lib/43891029152348110/_files/ProposedBud1112_060711.pdf). The text and calculations are meant to expound on the Budget Cap Calculations, but are incorrectly stated, implying that the contingency budget is in fact higher than the proposed budget by $226,400. This issue was brought up at the 6/14/11 BOE meeting,. and was supposed to be corrected, but still remains the only contingency information on the web site.
The School Budget re-vote mailer at least has a concrete picture of the Contingency budget, which changes next to nothing from the proposed budget. The mailing also has the ever-present comparison of Saugerties spending per student versus Onteora’s spending per student. What it fails to show is that the property tax for homeowners in the Onteora district pay about 2/3 of the tax rate that the Saugerties Taxpayers are stuck with.
While the proverbial “less than the cost of a cup of coffee” has constantly been used to promote the budgets that have gotten us where we are today, all of that “coffee” has put us in an unsustainable position. Your own request looking for a “$700 a month including utilities” rental belies the fact that many townspeople are paying that much just in property taxes. Adding heat, electricity, food, and medical costs reveals the real situation occurring here. In some neighborhoods, over 1/4 of the properties are for sale or about to go up for sale due to the high taxes, and they practically have to give them away because no one wants to buy into these high taxes.
Since the proposed budget and the contingency budget are effectively identical, the only reason I can see for the BOE to go through the trouble for a re-vote is to say that they didn’t quite understand the NO they got on the last vote, and are hoping it will change this vote.
The fact remains, the current budget is unsustainable for the people who are paying for it. The BOE discussions are moving to how to expand services and curriculum, but very little discussion is being had on how to realign to fit an education that well prepares our students into a containable budget.