Let's take the 2nd question first: is the district's proposed 09/10 budget fair? Hell, no. It's not fair that we have to make these cuts because Trenton won't let us (and by "us" I mean the people of Ridgewood not the Board of Ed) decide how much money we want to spend on our children's education. It's not fair that we have to make these cuts because the state has never fulfilled its obligations regarding funding of special ed and other mandated programs. It's not fair that we have been prohibited from setting aside money for a "rainy day." It's not fair that prices for many of our required expenses are rising more than we're allowed to raise tax revenue. It's not fair that we are forced to close the budget gap by making cuts in only a 25% sliver of our total budget because two of our unions did not help when asked. It's not fair that we now have to turn on each other, arguing over the value of this program or that. What's more important, athletics or art? Is that a "fair" question? Of course not. It's unanswerable. But in the words of my father and fathers around the world for generations: nobody ever said life would be fair. We do our best with the hand we're dealt.
Are the cuts proposed in the proposed 09/10 budget equitable? I think they are as equitable as they can be, when you factor in all the restrictions, mandatories, contracts, rising outside costs, etc. We had to close a $2.5 million budget gap. Besides the proposed consolidation of the music and art departments' supervision we are also eliminating 6.64 secretaries, 6 teachers, a librarian, 9 aides and half of all the lunch aides. In addition we are cutting in ALL areas of co-curricular activities including athletics. We are also cutting in professional development, substitute teacher allocations and are forced to use our restricted capital reserve account to make needed facility repairs. This is just a partial list but hopefully it better explains how the cuts are being distributed throughout the district. Remember, our budget must be balanced in terms of expenditures versus revenue... we cannot play the budgetary games we see on the state and federal levels.
For those who are particularly concerned about the arts, I can only reiterate what I wrote earlier this week: there are no budgetary cuts to any curricular programs in the arts in any school. AHLISSA will remain. Maroon & White will remain. Art and music classes will remain. All our talented art and music teachers will remain. Will the quality remain? Who can predict the future with certainty? I personally believe our art and music teachers and our principals will rise to the occasion.
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