Council statement on record school budget passage rate

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009 at 1:39 pm by

May 20, 2009
New York State Council of School Superintendents

NYS school superintendents grateful for voters’ record support of school budgets

ALBANY, NY – May 20, 2009 – Based upon newspaper reports from across the state, it appears that voters approved over 97 percent of school budgets yesterday. That would be a new record.

The previous high was 95.3 percent in 2007.

“Developing proposed budgets every year requires superintendents and boards to balance what schoolchildren need with what taxpayers can afford,” said Dr. Thomas Rogers, executive director of the New York State Council of School Superintendents. “The choices were especially hard this year,” he added.

Rogers noted, “This year, school leaders proposed budgets with the lowest statewide average tax increase in seven years, despite the lowest assistance from increased state aid in six years.”

“When state aid does not increase, local property taxpayers are forced to pay both the local and state shares of inflation,” Rogers explained. In 2003-04, the last comparably difficult year for state aid, proposed local tax increases averaged 10 percent.

This year’s state budget freezes Foundation Aid, meaning most districts are receiving no additional state help in paying for increases in teacher salaries, health insurance premiums, utility bills, or other general costs.

“School districts are uniquely accountable to the public,” Rogers went on. “Only local libraries share the requirement to seek voter approval for annual operating budgets every year. No other municipal, county or state budget requires such transparency or such direct local control. That process requires school leaders to be attentive to the concerns of both school parents and taxpayers.”

Rogers added, “We are all coping with most worrisome economic climate in at least a generation. With that backdrop, we are especially appreciative of the voters’ support this year. We will continue to do our best to balance our responsibilities to schoolchildren and taxpayers.”

“We are also deeply grateful to Senator Schumer, Senator Gillibrand, the New York delegation in the House of Representatives, and President Obama for the support provided through the federal stimulus plan,” Rogers added. “Without that aid, the state’s commitment to the Foundation Formula amounts for schools would have been even further reduced, and school leaders would have been required to make more painful choices in assembling their local budgets.”

-30 –

Robert Lowry
Deputy Director

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