These comments were made publicly at the December 4th Board of Education meeting.
I cannot express enough my disappointment and frustration with the Board over the way it has handled the CAC. The prior committee produced a report that was widely praised by both the community and the Board of Education. There were suggestions in the report that could shape the budget presentation (both in content and design) as well as ideas for cost savings in the near term and the long run.
Yet despite the praise and the publicly stated desire of the Board to have this activity be meaningful, there has been no follow-through whatsoever. I might remind you that you called me to volunteer my time in this effort and I took the request very seriously, putting in many hours of work. I didn’t ask for the task. It took several months before the administration even reviewed the report with the Board, or should I call it a rebuttal. At that review, the level of discourse and questioning by Board members suggested that many had already forgotten the contents of the report. This disrespect of our efforts was nothing short of shameful.
And now you have come back to the table, in late November, to form a new committee. It is too late to get involved with the budgeting process for next year in any substantive way and over the last 8 months you have taken no steps to pursue any of the ideas in the report. Instead, the Board President suggests that you start from scratch, with all new people, and financial acumen not being a prerequisite. I guess on that latter point at least you’ll have good company.
All of this is more worrisome given the sober news provided by our auditor last week. It sounds like rising New York State pension contributions will add somewhere between $4 and $6 million dollars to a structural deficit that I project at roughly $3 million for next year. So that’s a $7-9 million hole we need to fill. The pension piece will be covered by property tax increases outside the tax cap, which suggests a tax rate increase in the high single digits. But we will also need staffing and program cuts. Will you go after busing again or cut into our enrichment programs? Italian CILA is an obvious candidate to start.
In any event, I wish you luck with the next budget because you’re going to need it, since you will have frittered away another year without making any progress in getting a handle on your costs.
Adam D. Egelberg, CFA