To the editor:
Do we want a 5.3 percent increase in our school taxes? That is the simple question to be answered in the second-go-round vote of the Tupper Lake school budget. After all the presentations and talking points of tax cap limit, tax levy and other somewhat confusing terminology, it boils down that our tax rate would go up by 5.3 percent. This is in a school district where the student population is decreasing sharply.
The proposed budget states that two teachers will be laid off. The other payroll cuts are just through normal attrition such as retirement. This is no doubt hard on those two teachers and the students being taught by them. How about the board approaching the teachers' union and asking for some concessions in order to prevent the layoffs and to further reduce the spending increase? For example, can't the teachers consider paying a bigger share of their health insurance or opting for a less costly plan? Right now it is costing the taxpayers approximately $22,000 per teacher for the insurance, of which the teachers pay almost nothing, much less than other municipal employees. Come on, teachers, you can help your associates and the taxpayers by giving a little, especially when your class sizes have shrunk so much. The superintendent has taken a pay freeze; how about you?
In regard to possible further cuts, how about a serious look at bus routes? How many buses do we need to go to Conifer each day carrying just one or two students? Can't this be consolidated? How about taking a closer look at sports and consider parents paying some portion of the cost or getting supplements from local organizations. Maybe with that we could keep some junior varsity sports as well as reducing overall expense. I am sure there must be other areas that other people know of where cuts could be made if properly studied. But remember the school board will not consider anything unless you, the taxpayer, hold them responsible by rejecting this increase.
Remember the upcoming vote is simply approving a 5.3 percent tax increase when the student population has actually shrunk. Look at what you paid last year, and then add 5.3 percent to it, and then make your decision.