Press-Republican

February 21, 2013

Editorial: Express concerns to School Board

--
Press-Republican

---- — If Plattsburgh City School District residents want to see taxes cut or programs preserved, now is the time to speak up. It doesn’t do much good to complain once the 2013-14 budget is ready for vote in May.

District officials and School Board members have already issued a warning, using words like “dire” and “challenging” to describe the budget outlook. The district is expecting less than 1 percent more in state aid while faced with salary increases that average 4.15 percent and health-care costs that are rising about 7 percent. That is a formula for trouble.

The district could ask for more money from local taxpayers — but risk a budget defeat. Or the board could cut academic programs or sports — likely to hurt students.

Other options exist. The unions could offer concessions on pay or benefits. The district could consider reducing administrative positions, or staff or faculty could be laid off. Salaries make up almost 70 percent of the budget, so those changes could make a considerable difference, but they could also impair programs.

The School Board will be making tough decisions, and it is unfair to let them go it alone now and harangue them later. Board member Fred Wachtmeister made it clear at the last meeting that public input is wanted and needed.

“This time of year, we need to bring out the larger community to help us as we move forward,” he said.

Meetings are coming up March 7 and 21 at the Duken Building on Broad Street. The board members always call an executive session at 6 p.m., right after the meeting starts, and then return to public session at 7:30. So there’s plenty of time to get home from work, have dinner and make it to Duken for 7:30.

Unless students or parents are there for a Spotlight presentation, public participation at meetings is traditionally almost non-existent. Sometimes the Press-Republican reporter is the only person there not connected with the school.

This school year, a few concerned taxpayers have been showing up. We hope everyone in the district appreciates their public advocacy because these residents are at least making an effort to get involved.

Some of them are connected with United for Kids, a taxpayer group that started at Beekmantown and now has expanded to encompass issues from Plattsburgh and Peru districts. You can find out more on the website: unitedforthekids.org. And you can read about City School Board meetings and interact with members on the district website: www.plattscsd.org.

The School Board would be wise not to underestimate concerns. It may seem like voter apathy when only a handful of people show up, but the majority of taxpayers are there in spirit, asking for high-quality education at a reasonable cost.