Welcome to Laurie Goodman's blog. I use this space to share news and opinions about education and schools in Ridgewood, the state of New Jersey and the nation, in addition to other issues I'm personally interested in. I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, questions or opinions, too, by posting comments on any blog entry. Please observe basic courtesy -- keep your comments focused on issues, no personal attacks or bullying, please. Contact me directly at: lauriegood@mac.com

Friday, April 16, 2010

Reason #3 to Vote YES on April 20:
There is no such thing as “back to the drawing board.”

I’ve heard a couple of people say they want to vote “no” on the budget in order to “send a message.” Some want to send a message to the teachers’ union, whose members voted against offering concessions to help the budget. (I think I’ve already stated how I think this strategy is wrong-headed and dangerous.) Others want to send a message to the District, saying things like “voting no will force them to go back to the drawing board” and come up with different cuts.

Unfortunately, there is no such thing as “back to the drawing board.” We already exhausted the drawing board. Our budget process over the past few months explored so many options for cuts and savings. We listened to administrators and teachers, we listened to the public, we listened to each other and we came up with the best combination of cuts for 2010-2011. There aren’t a bunch of other cuts sitting out in the margin somewhere. $6.4 million contains pretty much every cut we feel we could manage.

And even if there were alternatives, going back to the drawing board is not how the process works. If the budget fails, then by law it goes directly and quickly to the Village Council. That body will then set the new tax rate. Whatever number they set, is the number we have to live with. Obviously, our elected Village Council members will want to do what they think the public wants…they are feeling their own pressures as they make their own plans to raise taxes for the municipal budget. So it’s virtually certain that the Council will mandate further cuts. So our school budget would basically contain all the cuts currently proposed plus more cuts to meet the Council’s tax rate.

Let’s not put the budget in the hands of the Village Council…They’re perfectly nice people, but they are not operating with the functioning of our schools as their top priority. They are not well-versed in the ins and outs of the school budget or day-to-day school operations. With their own election looming, they can’t help buy let political concerns influence, even just a tiny bit, their decisions.

Please Vote YES on April 20!


Anonymous said...

"...So it’s virtually certain that the Council will mandate further cuts. So our school budget would basically contain all the cuts currently proposed plus more cuts to meet the Council’s tax rate."

If you are so virtually certain that there will be more cuts, why didn't the BoE propose them already? Seems like the Council is doing a job that the BoE failed, or was too feeble, to do.

Laurie G said...

I'm sorry if I was unclear. The reason I'm "virtually certain" that the Council will mandate further cuts is NOT because I think there is "room" to make more cuts. I was referring to the fact that if the Council gets the budget, they would probably assume (perhaps rightly, perhaps not) that the community wants the budget to be smaller. So they would probably set a lower tax rate. They have their own political futures to worry about, after all. That's all the Council has the power to do. They would simply set a different tax rate. (And by the way, they don't have to do anything...they could keep the tax rate as-is, or they could even increase it...but I digress.) It's not the Council's "job" to make specific cuts in the schools budget.

My point was that there is no more room to cut easily, as we are already cutting into the actual "meat" of our programs. If the council forces us to cut more, it will be a problem.

And don't say something like "force the teachers to freeze their salaries." You can't force one party to a legally binding contract to do something. Voting down the budget will not force the REA to do anything and it will not change the cuts already proposed. It will only remove more programs and more staff from our schools.

The whole point of this post was a response to parents who have said things like, "I'm going to vote no because I don't agree with the cuts they've made. I want them to cut different things." I just wanted to make it clear that if the budget goes down, there is no process to come up with a different scenario. The things we've cut, remain cut...and then some.

Also -- If you think cutting over $6 million is a failure, or a feeble action, well, I don't know what to say. If we need to cut more because of a failed budget, I trust you will contact us with your specific realistic suggestions -- and be sure to choose things that don't affect the education of our children or the efficient operation of our schools.

Laurie said...

Sorry if I sounded a bit snippy at the end of that last comment...it's been a long week!

I do appreciate your comments. Thank you for caring enough to have an opinion.

Anonymous said...

Why does the Business Office remain virtually untouched? 2 payroll people, 2 A/P people, assistants to assistants (for that matter 2 assistant supers). You could outsource (I'm kidding)the BO and have a significant savings. This is the private sector speaking. The BO is like a kaffeeklatch whenever I walk in and the attitude seems like I have interrupted a National Security briefing.

If hindsight is 20/20, I'm sure some of your BOE compadres would have rejected Angelo's rescinding of his resignation.

Anonymous said...

Has the BoE at least considered selling the property at Cottage Place and relocating to less expensive space elsewhere? If so, what was the result of that conversation?

Laurie Goodman said...

I'm glad you're kidding about outsourcing the business office -- staffing changes have not been made there since it was just reorganized last year to be more efficient and more effective.

I would have to say that selling the Ed Center property, for a one-time infusion of cash, has not been something recommended to the Board. Personally, I would wonder how smart that would be in this economy.

Anonymous said...

Not to beat a dead horse, but...

Selling the Cottage Place facility would provide a one-time cash infusion AND would provide a lasting reduction in building operational expenses. That four-story structure used now can't possibly be as energy or space efficient as, say, Village Hall.

I imagine it would actually be easier for all parties to hold scheduled public meetings in the Stoldt Courtroom, rather than outside the Super's office. Of course, if the BoE moved the meetings it would need to abandon its Kaffee Klatsch, hollow square set-up. But I digress.

I agree that current economic conditions might mitigate against selling the facility. Worth an examination, though, don't you think?

My point is a response to your opinion that the BoE "has looked at everything" to reduce costs. Clearly, there are some things you haven't looked at for one reason or another and you really need to.

Laurie said...

Understood. I might disagree with the efficiency of Village Hall...and the suitability of the Courtroom for meetings (how does one have conversations with each other when everyone is facing in one direction? Remember, we're not putting on a show. It's a work meeting.). Not to mention, the Village would undoubtedly charge high rent ;) But you're right, looking at everything should include everything.