“The NYS Comptroller has repeatedly cited schools for this tactic”
By Thomas Bower, Fillmore NY
Once again, the silly NYS public school budget, board member selection and other proposition election season is upon us.
NYS public schools claim to encourage their students to become citizens who participate in government as informed voters. Yet schools, like many government entities, do everything in their power to evade accountability.
In their budget presentations, schools compare their proposed budgets for the next year to the current budget as originally adopted. Schools also commonly claim every year that the proposed budget requires dipping into reserves to balance the budget.
The year-to-year budget comparison is meaningless. A comparison to actual budget year-to-date data is a far more accurate portrayal of reality. Schools commonly inflate their anticipated expenses and under estimate their income from various sources which typically results in large budget surpluses every year contrary to the dipping into reserves myth. The NYS Comptroller has repeatedly cited schools for this tactic. These surpluses are then placed in reserves that magically cover other wish list items or some of the local property tax costs for their never-ending building projects that schools claim will have no effect on property taxes.
Also, as an example of non-transparency, Fillmore Central School’s first legal notice of the upcoming budget/board member/proposition election states that voters will be asked to vote on four propositions. The notice details the school budget, board member and library funding increase propositions yet conveniently failed to detail the $23 million building project proposition. Fillmore Central’s “newsletters” provided little mention of the building project much less invited the general public to participate in the project process.
As it has done in the past, Fillmore Central will likely only provide the statutory minimum notice to voters. This is a typical tactic to minimize the time for potential opposition to build and ensure school stake holders will be the plurality of the voters.
Also, in the unlikely event that a school budget is defeated twice, a “contingency” budget is adopted that funds virtually everything in the original and then schools refuse public use of the facilities to punish the voters. If a building proposition is defeated, schools simply put the proposition back before the voters until they get a positive vote.