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Some schools get it, some don't

April 28, 2010 - John Stack

 People of course hate paying taxes, and hate worse paying MORE taxes. But even worse is paying more in taxes to get a more inferior product. The school districts of Saranac Lake and Lake Placid get it. They have both agreed to contract concessions in order to both lower the financial impact taxpayers are facing and to save district positions. So, while the concessions don’t all go straight to taxpayers wallets, at least we are getting more for our money. I had complained when SLCS signed their lucrative (for the economic time) contract at the end of 2008. I still think it was out of line with economic reality. But now, both school district unions have overwhelmingly approved these concessions. I can only praise them for this act. This is happening in number of school districts around the state, including my brother-in-law in Rome Free Academy. But not in all school districts.

                Tupper Lake is being hit with what is definitely what has to be considered ‘worst case scenario’ coming true. 30 positions are being eliminated in one way or another – from a total head count of about 120. AND there is still a 10 percent tax increase!(even though the budget is going up less than 2 %)I don’t know how a school district can handle such a decimation of resources. I’m not saying it is the wrong thing, just that I’m glad my kids don’t go to Tupper. The ADE ran an article on the 26th that quoted Darlene Donnely, a retired school teacher from Tupper Lake. She said the media was focusing too much on the possible 9.91% increase in the tax levy and that this unfairly painted teachers as not making sacrifices.  I don’t like it when people make generalizations about public sector workers. But, when (former) public servants say things like this, you wonder how in touch with reality they all are. How can a town make TOO much of a 10% school tax increase? We may be headed out of a recession, but many are still finding it hard to make their normal bills, let alone a few hundred extra on their school tax bill. The teachers are sacrificing by losing a quarter of their instructional positions, she claims. Other than the teachers being let go, how is this a sacrifice for the other teachers? She says that by renegotiating their contract would not have enough savings to make a meaningful difference. Hmmm. Just conceding 2% of their 4.25% increase (like Saranac Lake, Lake Placid and others) would save probably $120,000. This is probably 2 or 3 positions saved, or the tax rate to fall a few percent. So, she is saying if the unions conceded just a little it wouldn’t make a major difference, so they probably shouldn’t do it? Is it just coincidence that Alice in Wonderland came out recently? Where is that logic from? Of course every little savings on their own don’t make a huge dent. But ya gotta start somewhere! How about giving back the whole raise? That’s 4-6 positions and almost a quarter of a million dollars. How about start paying a true fair share for health insurance? A family plan for teachers is $375 A YEAR! Conservatively, a plan costs $16,000 per year. That means the teachers are paying about 2 percent of the cost (with no increase for the next year of their contract). How about they pay like the rest of the world? Even with my great benefits and all, I pay more than that every MONTH for insurance! How about at least some token concessions so that taxpayers at least see there is some tangible sacrifices by the teachers.

                Yes, I am a state worker. Paterson did delay my raise for this year, which he probably had to with the financial situation we’re in. I am  for concessions on state contracts. Plus, today it comes out there is a good chance I will be furloughed. What is a furlough? Well, the plan is that starting in just a couple weeks or so, 100,000 or so of us state workers will only come in 4 days a week and get paid for 4 days. So, for that time, I will be taking a 20% pay cut. Of course management has exempted themselves from furloughs – another example of how many just don’t get it.





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