Assemblyman James Tedisco (R,C,I-Schenectady-Saratoga) and Assemblyman George Amedore (R,C-Rotterdam) today announced they will be introducing the School Budget Vote Fairness Act, which will ensure that contingency budgets do not exceed previous budget increases.
“When voters go to the polls and reject a budget, they are standing up for their rights as taxpayers. However, many times the budget they are forced to accept does not reflect their wishes and, in some cases, is far worse; we cannot allow the alternative to be worse than the initial offering. At a time when our economy is not doing so well and taxpayers are cash-strapped, the last thing school boards should be doing is increasing the amount taxpayers must pay,” said Amedore. “Our goal with this legislation is to give clarity to how contingency budgets should be crafted, in the best interest of the taxpayers.”
Yesterday, taxpayers from the Schenectady School District passed their budget by a narrow margin, an increase of five percent. However, had this measure not passed the alternative would have increased taxes by 15.8 percent. School boards should not threaten to implement a contingency budget that is three times higher than the originally proposed budget; this in no way respects the voices of the voters.
“When a school district must go back to the drawing board and craft a contingency budget, it should be less than the proposed budget,” said Tedisco. “George and I want to ensure that this situation never happens again where the contingency budget being considered is three times the tax levy rate of the proposed budget. Taxpayers deserve better, and that is why we are fighting to adopt legislation statewide that will protect them from this type of questionable school budget practice.”
This bill will close the loop-hole in order to protect taxpayers by mandating contingency budgets to no more than four percent, including the statutory exclusions school district’s can raise above the cap. The bill also requires that no increase of expenditures in a contingency budget should be attributable to projected increases or changes in school district demographics. In other words, the more students projected the more money schools can include over the four percent cap.
Traditionally, the Schenectady School District has been bound by a four percent spending cap. However, the school does not have to abide by that cap with the contingency budget. There were exclusions that disregarded the cap and resulted in the expansion of the budget to 15.8 percent instead of retaining it at four or five percent. Comparing what the school received in aid and what the final school budgets were over the course of the past five years, as school aid increased, the final school budget increased significantly as well.