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State Switches
School Budget Vote

By Jeanne Sager
SULLIVAN COUNTY — May 2, 2003 – Don’t go racing to your car to weigh in on the school budget situation just yet – the numbers are subject to change.
Although a number of local districts have already released their proposed tax levy increases and school budget figures, all eight are heading back to the drawing board.
Earlier this week, the State Legislature overrode a gubernatorial veto on delaying school budget votes to provide more time to approve an actual state budget (yes, the budget that was due April 1).
That means local taxpayers won’t be heading to their voting booths on May 20, but on June 3.
Once the state budget is approved, state aid figures used to determine local budgets will be released – and school districts can factor them into their own proposals.
There is an “absolute advantage” to this situation, according to Sullivan County BOCES Superintendent of Schools Dr. Martin Handler.
“Everyone’s getting more state aid under this proposal, which they can use to restore cuts, lower taxes or a combination of both,” Handler explained. “This will allow school districts to present a more realistic budget to their taxpayers.”
The figures, he continued, will be based on hard facts rather than estimates.
The hope among superintendents is that this is a sign of things to come.
“They’ve taken a stand that education is important,” noted Fallsburg Superintendent Gary Holbert. “I hope the one thing this does is make a long-term change.
“It’s hard to do business this way,” he noted.
Not knowing definite figures makes it difficult to balance the need to ensure that children receive all the services they deserve and finding the money to pay for it, he indicated.
Potentially, Tri-Valley Superintendent George Vanderzell added, the current state of affairs could swing the balance back in the children’s favor.
There will be some initial cost outlays, Vanderzell said – budget packets have to be reprinted and there’s a lot of additional paperwork.
On Fallsburg’s part, the switch in budget dates is complicating matters slightly. The district had already mailed out budget information packets so parents could read them before attending budget hearings and “ask good questions,” Holbert said.
That challenge aside, he said, the district will take advantage of the changes.
“It will be good for our kids, which is the important thing,” he said.
Vanderzell hopes that the extra costs will be compensated by the chance to save some programs and hopefully some teacher positions.
“But we have to have real numbers,” he said – if the Legislature is still arguing on June 3 – “basically all the extra effort will be a waste.”

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