After a brief respite, the budget was once again a bone of contention as one resident labeled the board’s handling of Albany’s cuts as a “gimmick.”
Susan Wade, in addressing the board at the Eldred Central School Board meeting on May 9, said “the history of our town and school taxes is exorbitant,” and added that since she moved to the area in 2006 her taxes have doubled.
Wade railed at the board for stating that it is saving taxpayers’ money with the 2013-2014 budget that came in just 1/100th of a percent under the tax cap at 4.9%.
Board President Douglas Reiser, in addressing her, said taxes since 2007 have been reasonable, and stated later that taxes are scaled differently for various residents within the district. He told The River Reporter that, as a resident of Lumberland, his taxes are lower than Wade’s, who resides in Highland Lake.
When pressed, Wade hedged and told the handful of those at the meeting that her taxes hadn’t actually doubled, but had risen at an alarming rate.
Wade acknowledged the “tremendous pressure” the school board is under and said she is not in favor of drastic measures such as combining schools, but did question how the board plans to keep the budget reasonable for taxpayers in upcoming years.
“Please don’t say you’re passing on real savings, although everyone is counting on you to do that,” said Wade.
She asked newly hired business manager Cheryl Gross her “guesstimate” as to how that budget would fare in the years to come, to which Gross said she could not “venture a guess” at this time.
While there is no crystal ball for the upcoming years, Reiser said that it is incumbent upon himself and the board “to work hard at providing a quality education for pre-schoolers through those graduating” within the school district.
This sort of criticism is not new for the board, which has come under fire for the past four months. A major outcry ensued when it was announced recently that 5.6 teaching positions would be eliminated, centering on the three teacher assistants who would no longer assist the already overworked first-grade teachers. The concern was for students who would fall behind in reading and have their education compromised in the years to come.
Other ways of saving also have been considered, including cutting the sports program, which would save the district $300,000; the combining of the two schools; and various forms of “tweaking” such as turning the furnace on at 5 a.m. in winter months as opposed to 3 a.m.
The board was forced to use $700,000 from its reserve for the 2013-2014 school year and was informed that Albany was replenishing the budget by $366,000, which the board voted to put back in the reserve for a rainy day.
As it stands now, the budget is at $16.2 million, with a vote set for May 21.