Vote yes on school budget

school bus- topWell, it’s an election, anyway. Always a time of excitement and contrast. But, even though we’ll try to convince you to go to the polls between 2 p.m. and 9 p.m. Tuesday, May 19 at the four school buildings in the Onteora district that once housed elementary classes (West Hurley, Woodstock, Bennett and Phoenicia) it doesn’t hold much suspense, at least not for us electoral junkies.

The three candidates, all of whom we’d urge you to vote for, are unopposed. There are three seats available. The only matter of choice in it, is that the candidate who comes out with the fewest votes only gets a two year term (finishing the unexpired engagement of a previously retired trustee) while the other two get the three year prizes. So do check out Laurie Osmond, Bobbi Schnell and Valerie Storey. They’ll be part of making policy and budgets for the next couple of years.

And here’s a nod of thanks to Tony Fletcher, retiring after six years on the board of education, who has served as its president. Fletcher is a man of strong opinions and many words, and is always well versed in the issues. He is ready always to reason, but also to stick up for what he believes. The board has accomplished much during his tenure. We are quick to point out that we believe school board trustee to be an unsalaried, thankless job. But Fletcher points out that “not only do people within the community frequently thank trustees for their commitment, but the service offers its own reward.”

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The voters will also choose whether to accept a proposal for the 2015-2016 school year budget. As all the stories and literature have told, the spending for the coming year decreases by 0.42 percent. The tax levy goes up 0.87 percent. Those are excellent year-to-year figures that any government official would be glad to offer, especially without cuts in programming.

The lone vocal dissenter, Jay Cohen, writes in his letter to the editor this week urging a ‘no’ vote on the budget, that Onteora still spends far above the average per student nationwide, statewide and locally. This is not untrue, though there are many factors that figure in. He places blame on the teacher’s union, and you can read his letter over there in the column.

The problem with voting ‘no’ is that a contingency budget, or austerity budget as it used to be more properly known, would likely allow, and might require the district to spend more than it will under the proposal on the table…and would dictate certain programmatic cuts. In our view, it makes no sense to vote no.

As to the view that the teachers union is to blame for what we spend, that’s a battle that will play out over the next year or two as the governor and union face off, with Common Core being one of the fields.

We’re more concerned at this point with what’s best for the students, day by day. On balance, this budget takes care of them without placing more burden on the taxpayers. That’s a winner. Vote yes.

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