After another dramatic school budget season, spending plans are going to the voters Tuesday. Many involve more cuts to people and programs. And most, but not all, are within Governor Cuomo's new two percent property tax cap. But as our Kat De Maria reports, a few budgets are going to need a little extra support from voters.
NEW YORK STATE -- In school board rooms across upstate New York, the word devastating has been used in some form or another, a lot. It's the logical result of the past few difficult budget years.
"We're dealing with three years of very deep significant devastating cuts to schools. Therefore districts are still playing catch-up ball in a lot of ways," said Central New York School Boards Association Executive Director Charles Borgognoni.
Districts around upstate New York have cut people and programs and tapped their rainy day funds. With little or nothing left to sacrifice, they lost money from the federal government and were given more but restricted by a property tax cap from New York State.
"Districts have had to do quite a lot of work in terms of understanding where their cap actually rested," Borgognoni said.
If you can understand the tax cap formula, you should probably be working for a district or running for a school board. It could put a district's cap anywhere from zero to well over the advertised two percent.
"Our formula was 2.61 percent after the ten steps we have to go through. And that budget was still very bare bones," said Elmira School Superintendent Joseph Hochreiter.
"The tax levy limit has also created challenges. But it's also provided opportunities for the community to have more of a say in our school budgets, which is exactly what our community has asked us to do," said Tully School Superintendent Kraig Pritts.
Tully is putting up a budget with a 4.77 percent tax levy increase, along with some academic and extracurricular programs as separate individual propositions. Elmira is going out with a five percent overall increase. All require a 60 percent supermajority.
"Getting supermajorities in any kind of a vote is an open question. You just don't know," Borgognoni said.
Now that they've done all they can, school leaders are trusting their communities to support the hard work that came out of those school board rooms.
"The temperature I take and feedback I receive are that people are in support. They know programs and jobs are on the line. And that hits home," Hochreiter said.
"We certainly hope it will pass. Certainly a failure will likely result in more reductions. And two failures will be devastating," Pritts said.
Polls are open in many school districts Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.