New York tops all other states in per-pupil spending

ALBANY — New York spent $17,173 per student for public education in 2007-08, more than any other state and 67 percent higher than the national average, according to Census Bureau statistics released Monday.

The $10,259 average nationally was a 6.1 percent increase over 2006-07, the Census Bureau said.

New York’s spending went up 7.4 percent over the two years. Public education is the single largest category of all state and local spending.

Locally, total district spending per student in 2007-08 ranged from $14,236 in the Wappingers Central School District to $21,226 in the Webutuck Central School District.

New York’s per-student spending was highest in 2006-07, too, at $15,981 per student, compared to an average of $9,666 across the country.

Eighteen states and the District of Columbia spent more than $10,259 and 32 spent less in the 2007-08 school year. States that came close to New York that year included New Jersey ($16,491 per student) and Alaska ($14,630).

EJ McMahon, director of the fiscally conservative Empire Center for New York State Policy, said school employees’ salaries and benefits make up most of the $6,915 difference in per-pupil spending between New York and the national average.

State spending on instructional salaries and benefits alone — $11,818 per student, or 90 percent higher than the average — was more than the total per-pupil spending in 39 states, he said.

The 15,569 public school districts nationally spent $593.2 billion in 2007-08, a 6 percent jump over the previous year, the census report said.

New York tops all other states in per-pupil spending | poughkeepsiejournal.com | Poughkeepsie Journal.

Long Island teachers union OKs pay cuts

Long Island largest teachers’ union has agreed to give up next year’s raises and take temporary pay cuts.

The $11 million in givebacks by Brentwood teachers comes as school districts across Long Island are to release budget proposals today.

The concessions by the 1,400-member Brentwood Teachers Association will save more than 200 jobs and preserve students services like music classes and sports, Newsday reported.

Brentwood is the fifth teacher union on Long Island to agree to contract concessions. The five unions represent about 3,300 teachers. Long Island has more than 40,000 teachers.

via Long Island teachers union OKs pay cuts | recordonline.com.

Kingston District Teachers donate $1M to ease tax increase

Kingston teachers have donated $1 million from their health-care fund to lessen the school district’s tax bump next year.

The Kingston school board passed its 2010-11 budget Wednesday night by a vote of 7-2. The $140.4 million budget would keep spending flat, but the tax rate would increase by 4.7 percent. The budget calls for the elimination of 59.5 employee positions, including 25.5 layoffs.

No school programs would be cut. The public vote is May 18.

State aid is the main culprit behind the tax increase. Kingston will suffer a $4.8 million cut in state aid next year as New York tries to rein in a growing budget deficit.

Kingston’s tax increase would have been higher if not for two concessions by the Kingston Teachers’ Federation. The district will not increase its contribution to the teachers’ health fund next year, saving roughly $2.3 million, Superintendent Gerard Gretziner said. The teachers also will donate $1 million from their roughly $21 million health fund to support the budget.

“I am very grateful to the KTF and the Kingston Trust Fund for stepping up and supporting the budget,” Gretzinger told the school board.

A representative for the teachers union could not be reached Thursday.

Board President David Fletcher and member Marc Tack were the only members to vote against the budget.

“I believe even at a 4.7 percent tax increase, it might be a little more than taxpayers can afford,” Fletcher said. “This year was a perfect opportunity to look at programs and see which ones work, which ones don’t, and make some priority decisions.”

Source: Times-Herald Record

Ulster unemploment rate 8.8%, the highest in the 20 years

Dutchess County’s unemployment rate hit 8.4 percent in January, the state Department of Labor reported this afternoon. Ulster County’s rate reached 8.8 percent, and Orange County’s rate was 8.6 percent.

The Dutchess rate was the highest since 1994, a year when the impact of IBM Corp.’s massive early 1990s downsizings were still considerable. It’s also the highest rate for any month since January 1994. The previous high for any month this year was 8.2 percent in September. The Ulster rate was the highest in the 20 years in the labor department’s current series, which dates to 1990.

Regional labor analyst Johny Nelson said in his monthly statement: “The regional job market continues to suffer from this protracted economic downturn. In January 2010, private sector jobs in the Hudson Valley fell over the year by 3.2 percent, a slight improvement from the 3.6 percent drop recorded in January 2009. Construction has been especially hard hit, with the sector accounting for more than a third of all private sector jobs over the period.”

The department said that statewide, revised jobs data shows that the state’s private sector job count, after seasonal adjustment, peaked in April 2008 and that the impact of the national recession “was deeper than first estimated,” said Peter Neenan, head of the department’s statistics division, in his statement.

From April 2008 to December 2009, the state’s private-sector jobs fell rapidly by 352,700 jobs, or a drop of 4.8 percent, the department said.

The state’s rate, using the same series as the county numbers, which are not seasonally adjusted, was 9.4 percent. Using the adjusted rate, which is designed to compensate for normal seasonal ups and downs, the state rate hit 8.8 percent. New York City’s rate was 10.4 percent. By that same measure, the nation’s rate was 9.7 percent.

Source: Poughkeepsie Journal

New Paltz has brains

That’s the message. What did they expect? I highlighted what seems to be an endemism across school boards.

Unfortunately next year it could be presented again in a different light, like they did to our proposal when it was voted down the first time, and was “reworded so it would pass”.

Voters defeat $50M New Paltz school bond proposal

NEW PALTZ — It was years in the making, but on Tuesday, the school board’s plan for a $50 million demolition and renovation of the middle school here hit a brick wall of voter opposition. The largest voter turnout in the district’s history resulted in defeat for the project by a vote of 2,561 to 983.

Voters waited in lines that snaked through the high school’s corridors for as long as an hour and a half throughout the day. When the polls closed at 9 p.m., several hundred voters were still in line and had the right to vote. They lined up for their turn at the only machine still available, the other three having filled to their 999-vote capacities. This delayed the final count.

The controversial project, which several months ago had little organized opposition, attracted more opponents in the past few weeks, with both sides accusing the other of bad faith, bad information and bad intent.

The main opposition group that emerged, Unite Our District, argued that the board’s financial numbers were misleading, that its reliance on $20 million in state building funds was dicey and that the project did nothing to improve the plight of the district’s other three schools.

Overall, they said, the board seemed blind to the shaky local, state and national economic picture.

The school board argued that the time was ripe for the project, that an economic downtown was as much an opportunity as a crisis.

Construction bids, they said, would never be as competitive, new jobs would be created and most of all, the middle school itself, which is in dire need of repair, could finally be “brought into the 21st century,” with advanced classroom models and infrastructural improvements that would include some “green” technology.

For George Pallor, who voted against the project, the entire episode was proof that “the property tax doesn’t work – it divides communities.”

And for school board member Steve Greenfield, who accused opponents of the project with issuing “an endless stream of falsifications,” there was at least this golden lining: Looking about at the packed parking lot outside the high school, he said, “This is democracy as it ought to be.”

Source: Times Herald Record

Property Tax Reform Task Force

Press Release
January 26, 2010
Property Tax Reform Task Force (Member of the NYS Property Tax Reform Coalition)

The Four Towns of the Rondout Valley School District Are Nearly $5,000,000 Behind in School Tax Collection

(Marbletown, NY) Tonight, Tuesday, January 26th, at 7:30 pm, the Rondout Valley School District will meet at the District Office building on the 122 Kyserike Road campus in Accord.

Following the work meeting part of the agenda, the Board will open the floor to public comment.

Vaughan Smith, business owner, former teacher (though not in RVSD) and resident of High Falls will ask the Board to acknowledge and address the imbalance between its budget and the shortfall in Rondout Valley tax receipts. He and other community members will ask the school board to rein in spending, hold the line on salary increases and push the teachers’ union to support spending and property tax
reform.

After consulting with town property assessors and county officials, Smith uncovered these distressing facts:

• Rondout Valley is #1 out of 692 school districts in NY in the
number of residents failing to pay their property taxes.

• The four towns of the Rondout Valley School District are $4,985,544 behind in school tax collection: 18% of Marbletown school taxes are unpaid; 29% in Rochester, 43.5% in Wawarsing, and 9.5% in Rosendale.

• Town residents are assessed some of the highest property taxes in the nation. Families report paying up to 48% of their income in property taxes. With the inability to pay property taxes, Ulster County has a high rate of residential foreclosure rate.

• Studies commissioned by the RVSD project a 30% decline in high school enrollment and 10% decline across the district from 2008 through 2015. With the decline in enrollment, jobs and population, sales tax receipts have dropped precipitously in the county leaving property taxpayers to cover more than their share of school and municipal taxes.

• The school district has an $8.5 million surplus, or 25% of the
2008-2009 tax levied on the district, according to the office of the NYS Comptroller, almost 3 times the amount allowed by the NYS Department of Education.

Schools back Paterson’s call to end costly mandates

School superintendents, who bemoan Gov. David Paterson’s proposed school aid cuts, are cheering his proposals to relieve mandates to districts.

“This is the first serious legislative attempt to gain control of the uncontrollable,” Monticello Superintendent Pat Michel said.

Michel has worked in education for 23 years, and ever since he started, there’s been talk about getting rid of what educators call unfunded mandates.

From laws on busing private school students to pandemic flu planning, Middletown Superintendent Ken Eastwood has dozens of pages that list these requirements.

Many are laws passed with good intentions — such as putting defibrillators in schools — but they come with thousands of dollars in costs passed down to the local level, said Terrence Olivo, chief operating officer of Orange-Ulster BOCES.

Last week, Paterson called for a four-year moratorium on any new laws that would force schools to spend money. He also put forward eight measures to relieve cost burdens on school districts. He’s calling for things such as eliminating unnecessary reporting, allowing districts to file reports electronically and getting rid of the Wicks Law, which requires hiring multiple contractors on projects valued at more than $50,000.

State Sen. John Bonacic, R-Mount Hope, said he generally supports the governor’s mandate reforms, although he doesn’t favor proposed charges for early intervention services.

Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, D-Kingston, said he supports reforms that save schools money, but he hasn’t seen proof of what measures would actually lower education costs.

“They need to do their job and bring to us real, live, truthful facts that are substantiated, not rhetorical points,” Cahill said.

Eastwood said he and his colleagues have given his local leaders evidence of the costs.

Olivo also said proof abounds that mandates cost schools money.

In 1987, the state budget division released a study saying the Wicks Law increased construction costs by 24 percent to 30 percent.

E.J. McMahon, of the fiscally conservative Empire Center for New York State Policy, said the state should both reform laws and cut school aid. His group’s budget blueprint takes aim at the Triborough Amendment, which allows teachers annual pay raises while negotiating contracts.

Whatever mandates experts want reformed, everyone seems to doubt that lawmakers will take on the task. McMahon predicts that legislators will claw back money for schools but make no changes to laws.

Attempts to repeal or reform the 1912 Wicks Law have failed many times, even though it’s been proposed by the last four governors.

“We’re making the same old mistake again,” McMahon said.

Source: Times Herald Record