When you are overweight, you resolve the issue by increasing exercise and lowering caloric intake. When you have overspent, you resolve the dilemma by increasing your income and lowering your expenses, right? Unfortunately our community has been hit with people’s incomes dropping significantly and their expenses now being asked to rise by 7%. (See: School Budget Forecast: Class Size and Taxes Up; Staff Size Down.)
I write urging our community to reevaluate the need for an approximate $5.5-$11 million school budget increase this year. For nearly seven years our family has lived in Larchmont and, except in 2007) each time our community was asked for a school tax increase, it was approved without reservation. And in seven years, the school budget went from $75 million to today’s $117 million. District enrollment went from 4,641 to 4,974, and inflation has averaged less than 3% in those years.
As a community member whose children attend our public schools, I ask for zero school tax increase this year. We are faced with a challenge, and we need our administration and our neighbors to find a solution. Create off-line concessions, without altering our staff contracts. For 2009-10, freeze salaries, determine if 19 paid sick days are necessary, and increase health care contributions from the current 4% to the 15% that many teachers in surrounding districts pay. God-willing our community will recover next year and we can return to the district’s negotiated contract. We have great teachers and it is in our children’s interest to keep those teachers. While our community navigates this horrible economy, let us be prudent by reassessing our needs and preserving jobs.
Justifications due to external mandates are without perspective. Governor Patterson’s requests involve $600,000 in a $122-$128 million proposed budget, about .5%. We appreciate our legislators’ efforts to secure more state aid, but again we are talking about less than 1% of our budget. Better to discuss the roughly $96 million in the budget that we can control.
This is not for comfort, this is for necessity. Our country has over 12 million people unemployed today. Westchester County foreclosure rates have increased over 100%. Many people living in our district have lost jobs and are creating timeline budgets to determine how long they can remain in town before moving. And with consumer confidence in negative digits, those who are employed walk on egg shells wondering, “How long will I remain employed?”
Ask members of the community about their current workdays, which now mean longer hours, doing more work, with fewer employees, for half pay. Ask them how they have slashed their household budgets to cope. Every time consumers are about to make a purchase they now think, “Do I really need this?” This year it is time for our community to review its school budget and ask, “Do I really need this?”