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Archive for May 12th, 2005

This letter is indicative of the kind of thinking that raises school budgets through the roof. Some incumbent school board member’s friend is writing in support of her re-election because she is so "amazing!" Oh, and vote for the school budget too.
The proposed school budget for our district is an increase of 8.9% ($84,000,000 up from $77,000,000 for 2004-2005). Every year, the district sends out a budget with a percentage increase that is far greater than the rate of inflation, usually with an explanation attached about a needed project such a new athletic fields, which do cost. This year, no such explanation.
In past years I have voted "yes" on budgets because I bought the sales pitch, such as it was. Westchester is very affluent, and I do want our athletic facilities to compete with Scarsdale, Bedford and Chappaqua. I do want our after school programs to be strong. I want the capital improvements made to the buildings and I want the teachers to be paid fairly. However, compound interest being what it is, I am sensing more than a subtle sense of entitlement this year.
The letter was sent out a week before the vote; I have no time to attend a meeting and voice my concern. I will not make that mistake in the future. Here is the blackmail are a few of the consequences if I vote "no":
  1. Summer school and after-school programs eliminated
  2. Eliminate interscholastic and intramural sports
  3. Eliminate elementary school field trips
  4. Reduce custodial/buildings and ground staff
  5. Eliminate administrative and secretarial staff
There are several more but you get the picture. A quick scan of the district website shows that they have actually lowered the proposed budget $1.3 million from the April meeting’s figure. What great people! Always working to save us money! Last year’s budget vote was also for two school board seats. In a close election, two people whose most memorable platform was to keep the new, politically correct school mascot defeated two men who sought to reinstate the (horror) Indian. Our town’s name and history are rooted in the Sint Sinck tribe that once lived here. These are the lofty thoughts of people controlling a budget that is fast approaching $100 million.
Anyone in sales will recognize the "ascending close," a sales pitch technique invented by encyclopedia companies and quickly adopted by other industries for its effectiveness. The premise was asking small "yes" questions before asking for the Big Yes, or the sale. You want after school programs don’t you? You don’t want secretaries to keep their jobs don’t you? You want the children to make field trips, don’t you? You want our retirees to have financial dignity don’t you? Yes,yes,yes,yes…so vote for this outlandish increase in the budget. Inferences throughout the pitch are to how screwed you are without the product, and how affordable it is if you calculate the cost to a per day figure.
In 1989, as a soon to be college graduate, I scanned the Philadelphia Inquirer’s help wanted for jobs offering management training. I found one in the electronics industry that even offered a company car. Armed with my resume in a plastic folder and a $250 Brooks Brothers suit I arrived at a back alley warehouse to a company that sold stereo speakers out of the backs of minivans on street corners. On the wall was a poster with words that remain with me today.
Look ’em in the eye, pitch ’em high, watch ’em buy.
I am voting "no" on the 2005-2006 school budget.
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