To the editor:
Imagine you go to a doctor and you tell him you're hemorrhaging and he says let's put that aside for a while and first treat that carbuncle.
Sometimes it's easier to deal with the smaller stuff. That's what was going on during a by Nyack Schools Superintendent James Montesano and Anne Byrne, a Nanuet School Board member. Rather than focus on why districts can't manage their budgets, they used distraction tactics.
The preparation of the 2012-2013 district budgets is daunting because school districts are unaccustomed to working within limits. The newly enacted tax cap requires them to keep the tax levy increase to 2%. So rather than focus on what makes up more than 75% of the budget – salaries, healthcare and pensions – last night's educational meeting was a rant about state mandates, rising energy costs, facility operations, new testing standards and special needs' expenditures.
Anyone who's followed the budget process over the years knows that these expenses – which make up 25% or less of the levy – are easier to rant about than to open a spread sheet and evaluate excesses in administrative layers and abuses in collective bargaining. The administrators turned the session into a rally – telling folks to lobby their state representatives to restore funding and to relieve the burden. While this may be useful sometime in the future (don't forget the budget will be introduced in a month) the district has to work with what is has in front of them. But that requires dealing with the hard stuff; that means stemming the hemorrhaging. That means forcing more sacrifice from administrators and teachers.
This puts districts in unfamiliar territory. Taxpayers have been willing to bear the brunt of a runaway system for years but finally we have a tax cap. Last night Ms. Byrne tried to instigate the crowd when she said it was “un-Democratic” and un-American to require a vote of 60% to override the cap. What she'd rather do is convince voters to fear a tax cap and vote against their economic self-interest, over and over, year after year.
I believe that Ms. Byrne and Mr. Montesano might hold to the tax caps this year but they are laying the seeds for future overrides. They want voters to believe there's nothing that can be done to save our children's education but to tax ourselves to death. I noticed that the speakers barely touched on the issue of salaries and benefits and excessive administrative layers. Why should they? They've been using the same tactics for years and it's always worked. It's up to you if you want to continue to be manipulated.
—Tina Traster, Valley Cottage