The New Rochelle Board of Education will begin the 2011-2012 Budget Process tonight with the first of two Community Budget Forum and Input Session at the New Rochelle High School library. The events will take place on Thursday, February 10th at 7pm and Wednesday, March 2nd, also at 7pm.
For the first time, there will be a live broadcast. The meetings will also be broadcast live on NRED TV at Cablevision Channel 77 and Verizon Channel 30 and over the web on the nred.org web site. Talk of the Sound has been calling for live TV broadcasts of Board of Education meetings for years, others longer. Board members Deidre Polow and Mary Jane Reddington, among others, have opposed televising BoE meetings.
In March and April there will be a series of Budget Review Sessions. The Budget Vote & Election will take place in May.
Since 2006, the gap between home values (the basis for local taxes that comprise about 70% of school district revenue) and taxes has become significantly misaligned (see "Bubble Gap" chart above).
The entire budget process is a farce in two acts. Act One is that the administration and board pretend that they are holding meetings to discuss how money will be spent by the district. Act Two is that the school district, board members, PTA, government officials and the PTA pretend that voters are being asked to ratify a school budget.
Observers should always keep in mind that voters are not being asked to ratify a proposed school budget. The referendum that is on the ballot every May is to approve a tax levy. Once that tax levy is approved, the district can then spend the money how they see fit. There is never any public year end review to determine how actual spending matches the proposed budget. This entire dog and pony show called the Budget Process is about convincing voters that the numbers in the budget are real and that those numbers are the subject of the vote in May. The fear-mongering is that if the voters do not approve the levy the budget then popular items listed within the budget will be first to be cut all which is nonsense considering that on a $220mm budget the cost of a JV sports program or academic club is a pimple on an elephant.
The entire so-called budget document is a description of how money could be spent during the coming school year. The spending described is a function of the revenue projections which are based on projected revenue from federal, state and local taxes. None of these figures is known now and will not be known at the time of the tax levy vote in May. State Aid will not be known until the State budget is passed and signed by the Governor which, for many years, has taken place after May. Local taxes are based on assessments which are subject to the tax certiori process under which property owners can petition to reduce their assessment and thus their tax bill. Every year this process begins in June and ends in or around September. Local tax revenue is over 70% of total revenue and the Board of Education will have no idea as to the local assessment for about 7 months so they have to guess. In short, they have absolutely no idea what the revenue side of the budget will be but once passed the candy store is re-opened and money is spent without regard to the budget presented to voters.
Talk of the Sound will present tonight several concrete ideas on how to achieve $5-10 million in permanent budget savings without cutting programs, teachers or raising taxes.
See you tonight.