Today MyRye.com is carrying a guest column from Charmian Neary on her YES vote for the school budget on Tuesday, May 18th. What do you think? How will you vote on the school budget? Leave a comment below.
Charmian Neary is a parent in the Midland School District, serves on the school board finance and budget committee and organizes Friends of the Rye City School District every year, an ad hoc group of women who work to turn out the vote for the school budget.
By Charmian Neary
The taxpayers of Rye have supported our schools willingly and generously over the years allowing Rye schools to develop and maintain a national reputation for stellar achievement.
Now, however, times have changed . The relative comfort we’ve enjoyed as a community has given way to uncertainty for all of us and outright hardship for some.
In this atmosphere its important that the taxpayers know that just as they have supported Rye’s schools in times of rising property values , Rye’s schools will return that support when the economy falters.
To that end the schools budget for 2010 -2011 — developed by the administration under Dr. Edward Shine and adopted by the school board under Joshua Nathan — reflects the lowest tax rate increase in almost 2 decades. The taxpayers need to hear that fact above the noise of competing constituencies that inevitably rises when debating something as important as education.
Rye schools next year will see an increase in enrollment. Despite the fact that we’re educating more students — with growth projected at 1.2 percent — our budget has risen only 1.3 percent.
The district has achieved that modest rate of growth despite increases in fuel and electricity costs, lower property tax revenues from declining home values and the ever present burden of onerous mandates from Albany.
Albany is important to mention for two reasons. First regarding those “mandates” so that they are understood. The New York State legislature every year passes more laws –which we are then “mandated” to include in our budget — but they do not increase our state school aid accordingly. On the contrary, we are considered a wealthy suburban district, so there is little sympathy for our community’s property tax burden in the New York City dominated legislature.
Second, school taxes are the only taxes we as voters can vote against directly, so it is really tempting to register our frustration at the polls in May during our school budget vote. The anger should rightly be directed at Albany in September and November.
Yes, the money is budgeted here in Rye and spent here as well, but its shocking how much of our budget is partially, and in some cases totally, beyond our local control.
From the portion we can control, the district will cut $755,000 dollars this year–in addition to over $1,000,000 dollars cut last year. The budget has been trending downward for four years now as our board and administration together correctly resolved, well before the current economic crisis, that its upward trajectory was unsustainable. To rein in spending they held the line on salaries and benefits leading to painful and protracted contract negotiations that continue today.
Despite this they’ve kept the reductions away from our children and their education. They have not gutted programs foolishly or haphazardly which would take years to restore.
They’ve made difficult decisions and withstood public criticism to deliver to Rye tax payers a budget less than 1/10th of 1 percent over enrollment growth.
I believe our administration and our school board have done a commendable job in keeping Rye’s tax rate among the lowest of 46 districts in Westchester and Putnam counties.
Are school taxes still too high? Yes, quite frankly, they are, but we need to remember when we vote on May 18 that the men and women with the real power to change that fact are on the ballot in the Fall.
Until the way schools in New York are funded is changed in the legislature, this district is committed to delivering a first rate education for our children at the lowest possible tax burden to our citizens.
They owe that to all of us–the taxpayers of Rye.
Please join me in voting YES on the Rye City school budget.