June 20, 2007

Districts succeed at budget revotes

Source: NYSUT News Wire

The second time was the charm for most districts after the statewide June 19 school budget revote. NYSUT President Dick Iannuzzi heralded the pass rates as good news and thanked New Yorkers for their commitment to education.

Voters were asked to reconsider school spending plans in 27 districts where the budgets had failed on the first try - 20 passed while seven others were defeated.

"Parents and community members are acknowledging that public education is heading in the right direction," said Iannuzzi. "They are applauding rising test scores and other measures of real progress, while recognizing that school boards are being careful stewards of their tax dollars. This year's record passage rate is a sign that New Yorkers increasingly see public education as an investment in their children's future and the future of the communities in which they live."

The overall success in the revote districts raises the state school budget passage rate to an all-time record of 98.24 percent, NYSUT Executive Vice President Alan Lubin said. Local unions built coalitions with community groups and used phone banks, lawn signs and word of mouth to build support for their school budgets. The statewide union launched a $1 million statewide television advertising campaign, Lubin said.

In those districts where even the revised budget failed, the schools have no choice but to adopt a contingency plan which caps district spending increases at 3.84 percent and limits spending on equipment, capital improvements and other areas. Twelve districts this year are on these austerity budgets, the lowest number since a contingency budget cap was adopted, Iannuzzi said.

Several districts, including Albany, Amsterdam, Highland Falls and Georgetown-South Otsego adopted austerity budgets after initial school budget defeats in May. The Greece district, where voters rejected a $188 million plan that cut music positions, also decided to adopt an austerity budget. The Greece Teachers Association, led by Don Pallozzi, spoke against the cuts but supported the budget in an effort to avoid contingency.

In talks with the district, Pallozzi encouraged administrators to keep the cuts as far from the classroom as possible. "By alienating the people who generally support the budget, they basically increased the ‘no' votes," Pallozzi said. "We don't know what the contingency budget means; it's just a mess."