Here we go again. Another year, another 4.5 percent proposed tax increase for property owners in the Fonda-Fultonville Central School District. Even after the state coughed up an extra $978,000, the board still can't resist the urge to raise our taxes yet again. If your home is assessed at $150,000, your tax burden will increase by roughly $110 this year. After last year's disastrous budget that required $500,000 in cuts to be made midyear, pardon me if I'm skeptical of the way the board and financial officer manage our school's business. The fact that over the past six years or so the FFCS board has managed to blow a $1 million fund balance and turn it into a $240,000 deficit should give all taxpayers little confidence in the district's financial stability going forward. Every year, we hear the same sob stories from the superintendent and school board: It's the state's fault, we had unexpected costs associated to retirees' health care, our enrollment has fallen, to name a few. I know that I'm not alone in saying enough is enough.
First, let's dispense with the claim we need to pass this budget and raise taxes to continue to provide a quality education for our kids. That's a deceptive and misleading scare tactic. Again, the board fails to address the real budgetary problem: employee salaries and benefits. This increase only benefits teachers and retirees. Eighty percent of the increase in this budget is directly due to increases in employee/retiree health-care costs. This budget will again be presented to the voters without knowing what the teachers contract will even look like because negotiations have not started yet. Today, employee salaries and benefits consume more than 50 percent of this budget. Major payroll/compensation deductions are necessary, but there is no chance getting substantive concessions from the teachers and their union unless we property owners send a strong message. Insist employee salaries and benefits come more in line with the people of the district who pay the bills. If that's not acceptable, then cut positions. Tax increases cannot and should not be a part of every new budget.
I will not support any budget proposal that raises taxes one dime and urge other property owners to do the same. I had hoped last year's first disrespectful failed budget proposal would have sent the board a message. I guess it didn't. Vote "no" Tuesday and refresh their memories.
ALAN M. ROSE