Let me begin by saying I am not opposed to athletics or any other programs beneficial to our children. The problem our school (Fonda-Fultonville) faces is how to pay for these non-mandated programs. It's obvious to me that the superintendent and school board feel that raising taxes is the answer. I strongly disagree. Another 3.5 percent property-tax increase is totally unacceptable and should be opposed by taxpayers.
The administration will argue that they cut all they could to get to the 3.5 percent level. That would be a lot more credible if they had not made the same claim when they proposed an 8 percent tax increase in their first failed budget proposal. This was a bad move and deteriorated the trust between the school board and the taxpayer.
I have a suggestion for the board that will help them avoid a repeat battle next year. Instead of always seeking a tax increase, take a look at faculty pay and benefit packages to get concessions that are more in line with what the district can afford. I always hear teachers say we need to do this for the kids. Let's put that to the test.
The median average income for the Fonda-Fultonville Central School District is $42,000. There are 143 teachers at FFCS who make more than that; seven make more than $91,000. Our superintendent makes $135,000, and a terminated principal left FFCS with a buyout of approximately $250,000. Teachers only pay 12 percent of their health-care costs; the national average for teachers is 19 percent. Teachers also enjoy a cherry deal when it comes to their pensions. Only a 3 percent to 3.5 percent contribution is required. Taxpayers fully fund their retirement for life. Seventy-two percent of our teachers live outside the district; their children attend school here tuition-free.
So my suggestion is that instead of always raising taxes, or vilifying residents who disagree with how to pay for programs and athletics, look to the teachers to really give back. When contract negotiations begin, keep taxpayers in mind. When you compare who can and can't afford to do more, the answer is obvious. Taxing the property owners cannot and should not be the only answer; it should be the last resort.
On Tuesday, participate. Put some thought into your decision and get out and vote on this very important matter.
ALAN M. ROSE