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Archive for July 1st, 2006

I have blogged previously on the once a year money grab that is our local school  budget. My community passes the budget very year with no exception due perhaps to the high rental population who buy into all the doom and gloom threats if they don’t give the board what they want. Mahopac, a community in nearby Putnam County, is not so knee jerk and this year’s budget failed. So, Mahopac’s school board has made good on their threat to make the children pay for it.

MAHOPAC — The Mahopac Board of Education last night stuck to its guns and adopted a $95.8 million contingency budget that does not fund sports or extracurricular clubs.

The board also eliminated 13.5 positions from its initial $98.6 million proposal to keep the spending increase under 4 percent, as mandated by state education law.

An estimated 500 people crowded the auditorium of Lakeview Elementary School to learn of the final plan and to hear what a community coalition formed after the budget defeat would do next.

One parent, 47-year-old Monica Wyka, said it was a sad day for the children.

"The taxes here are huge," said Wyka, a sales representative and caterer. "But you know what? If you want a Blue Ribbon School of Excellence for your child, then you have to pay."

The eliminated positions include 3.8 administrators, 4.4 high school teachers, one elementary school teacher, 2.3 special-education positions, a library aide and a secretary.

My heart goes out to that .8 of an administrator. I mean, to not only lose your job but also .2 of yourself must really stink. The purge continues:

Instead of cutting an academic team at the middle school — which had initially been proposed — school officials trimmed spending on repairs, supplies, equipment and other noninstructional expenditures.

Savings also resulted from eliminating adult education, cutting back on books and supplies for the library and reducing the amount for computer hardware.

Also, the district will not send students to the Walkabout alternative education program.

"The first priority is to maintain the integrity of our instructional program," Superintendent Robert Reidy said before presenting his plan. "Sports and clubs are absolutely critical for youth development. But they’re not the core of the mission that we have."

A community coalition has been working on a strategy to keep clubs and sports in the schools — for a price. The coalition must raise a little more than $1 million to maintain all extracurricular activities.

At a meeting Wednesday, coalition leaders presented the school board with a preliminary plan that would call for charging varsity athletes $432 per sport, while junior varsity, freshman and middle-school athletes would pay $144.

Members of high school clubs — such as the yearbook, newspaper, drama and debate — would pay $169 to participate in each club.

Even parents of younger children may have to pay a surcharge of $25 to participate in the Mahopac Sports Association, according to the proposal.

The message is that NOTHING that can be trimmed from the budget that is waste or extravagance except some positions and extracurriculars. The school board members are the experts, right? These people examine multi-million dollar budgets for a living, right? Hardly. These are part timers with time to kill who won a popularity contest and have no other budgetary tool to ply except extortion. Their favorite excuse is the skyrocketing costs of teacher healthcare and pension benefits. I agree. Anyone who works as a teacher for 20 years must be set for life thereafter, and we must all pay for it.

My hat is off to the taxpayers of Mahopac who said no to the money grab and whose children have to pay for the board’s ensuing temper tantrum. May they elect better board members next year. 

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