I need to correct a couple of items in the post today:
1) The reason the district did not bring a parcel tax to the ballot last year was because the polling firm they hired told them a tax would not pass at that time. That greatly disappointed many members of the board but especially Dr. Casey. They were dying to get a parcel tax in the community.
2) Valerie Arkin's list composed mostly of things that would save year after year. There are a few items that would be one time savings but a majority of her items would save money each year, not just the current year as you state.
3) On raises, you are partially correct in that the teachers negotiated for .738% less than COLA. They did not just give this up however. They traded that COLA raise in order to have less teaching time with the students and that money went to science specialists. While I feel that was good for everybody, they didn't just tell the district that they did not want the full COLA offered from the State. The district did make an error, in my opinion, to completely pass along the COLA increases from the State. Part of COLA should really have gone towards the step and column pay increases that the unions negotiated instead of those raises being paid for out of the General Fund. The current policy of paying for step and column out of the general fund and giving all the COLA adjustments directly to the teachers is not sustainable. It eventually catches up with you. Like it has this year. The district also neglected to keep their reserves high. At one point our district did have healthy reserves. Over the last 4 or so years, that reserve has gone down to dangerous territory. While schools are only required to have a 3% reserve, our district previous had much more that that, knowing that 3% would only cover a few weeks of operations.
We can all see that the State budget is a mess. Schools will be affected. So have most of the taxpayers jobs. I could support a parcel tax if the administration were honest about prioritizing the cuts and did the necessary administrative cuts, most have been identified by Valerie Arkins list. I would then give them an "A" for working hard and then I could support them. Hearing a board member say that he is not willing to make administrative cuts unless he gets a committment from the community for more money from a parcel tax feels like extortion to me. Interesting how that board member does not live in this community, would not have to pay the parcel tax, and has two daughters who work for the district and received pink slips; but I digress. This board was elected to give us the best service for the money we give them in taxes. I do not feel they are doing this right now. I went to a budget advisory committee meeting and was taken back. Members of the committee wanted to make suggestions of potential cuts but they were told to only focus on the potential cuts identified by the administrative staff. The staff members in that meeting were not looking for help from the community but rather they were looking for people to agree with them. After the meeting I asked a member of the committee if all the meetings were run that way. He said "sadly, yes."
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