Three of the region’s newspapers are wrestling with the question of school budgets and teacher salaries.
In this morning’s Plattsburgh Press-Republican, Stephen Bartlett points out that Peru’s school district has roughly a $4 million budget shortfall next year.
The biggest chunk of that shortfall is caused by Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposed budget cuts, but a sizable portion comes in the form of negotiated cost-increases for school teachers.
The district also estimates a $358,000 increase in negotiated raises, $412,000 more in health-insurance premiums, an extra $211,000 in retirement-system contributions for support staff and another $372,000 for contributions to the teacher-retirement system…
This might be an obvious time to question whether salary increases are timely, or whether teachers should pick up more of their own insurance payments, as Governor Cuomo has suggested.
In a column, meanwhile, Glens Falls Post-Star editor Ken Tingley argues that it’s time for every school district to have this wrenching, painful discussion.
The only place schools can save big chunks of money is with salary givebacks – or layoffs – and increases in employee contributions to health care.
That’s where the conversation should start.
Each and every school board should be asking its employees if they are willing to give back their raises or contribute more to their health insurance.
Governor Cuomo, obviously, is lobbying teachers, their administrators, and their unions hard to convinced them to choose the salary cuts option whenever possible. Here’s a statement he released over the weekend, via the Albany Times-Union.
“I commend the administrators and faculty of the West Genesee School District who have taken a voluntary salary freeze. These are the type of tough but smart decisions school districts across New York should be making. West Genesee clearly understands the economic pressures we are facing and other school districts should follow this example.”
The Adirondack Daily Enterprise, meanwhile, is reporting that very few districts in the North Country appear to be able to rely on their cash reserves to hold their budgets steady for next year.
Most appear to be scrambling for ways to cut costs dramatically.
So what do you think? We’ve already seen widespread teacher cuts in the region. Is it time for another squeeze, or is Governor Cuomo misguided?
UPDATE: (from David S.) – The New York Times is reporting this morning Cuomo wants to reduce the reimbursements districts get for sharing services through BOCES. His budget staff says the reimbursements have been rising too fast.
But education officials say this would provide a disincentive for schools to do what Cuomo has urged them to do…consolidate:
“I think we are an excellent example of what the state has been promoting: sharing services, consolidation, saving dollars and providing equitable opportunities for all students in the state,” said Sandra Simpson, chief operating officer of Southern Westchester Boces, which serves 33 districts, including Scarsdale, New Rochelle and White Plains. “Why dismantle a system that is working so well and that people depend on?”
BOCES plays a huge role in the rural North Country.