You’re busy, I know. But I hope that you’re not too busy to vote for the school budget and new school board members next Tuesday, May 17. It does matter – for Tuxedo students and for Tuxedo taxpayers. My recommendations are to vote yes for the budget (a 4.73 decrease from last year), and for candidates Mike Arone, Dorothy Ziegelbauer and Adam Eirand (numbers 1, 2 and 3 on the ballot).
If you’re not too busy to read my analysis, please continue. Perhaps you have received mailings from people who want to close George F. Baker High school, which has been dealt a serious blow after losing more than half of its students from Greenwood Lake. Those who are left are devastated to lose many friends; their social lives have been cut down. However, academics remain strong, according to many parents and kids who are there.
The school is small, similar to many sought-after private schools. Yes, it’s too small now; but, it will grow. Tuxedo Farms has a few years before it can start to deliver students. The desks are waiting. The ever-quoted cost-per-student will drop. And there will be more taxpayers. It could work out very well for all of us – the students and the taxpayers.
A good public school is a tremendous asset for any community. I believe that we have an opportunity to have that in Tuxedo. We lose, big time, if we give up and don’t fight for our future. Can we be patient and tough it out for the next few years? I sure hope so.
Now, to the financial side. Some say that numbers don’t lie, but in fact they can be manipulated and interpreted in such a way that the conclusion is false. Some of the nay-sayers have done just this.
A simplistic and totally erroneous approach for estimating what we pay per student is to take the total budget and divide by the number of students. The result - $56,000! Shocking! But, wait; it doesn’t work like that. The true measure of the cost per pupil to the tax-payers of the district is projected to be $11,450,415, the amount of the levy. The remaining portion is funded through other revenues, like state aid, for example. The school district pays for the bussing of all private school students within a 15-mile radius. There are about 95 in this group, and they’re not counted in the total number of students. In addition, by law, the district contributes towards textbooks and health/welfare services for these students. Twenty-one Special Education students, residents of Tuxedo, are sent Out of District. They’re not counted either. Their cost is much more than the normal cost-per-student, no matter how you calculate it. One student costs the taxpayers $159,622 per year! The total amount paid for these 116 students who are not counted in the Tuxedo student body is $2,108,022.
Even so, the cost per student is high. That follows naturally when the number of students declines. Expenses can also be reduced, but not at the same rate. If teachers are let go, it is mandated that the newer teachers with lower salaries go first. So, the district is left with a highly-paid faculty. An academic program that has fewer students still costs approximately the same as it would with more students.
School taxes are wicked. No question. But, they could be worse – a lot worse. Let’s look at our tax rate per $1000 of assessed value compared with that of some surrounding communities: Tuxedo - $79.58; Town of Ramapo - $179.69; Monroe-Woodbury - $145.72; Town of Warwick - $150.62. Count your blessings.
Since the cap imposed by the state this year is negative .33, even with considerable trimming on the expenditure side, the proposed tax levy is 1.06% or $157,414 over the Tuxedo tax cap. Therefore, in order to pass the $13,497,279 budget, the district will need a super majority vote of 60%.
Please make an effort to vote on Tuesday, May 17. Vote yes for the budget, and support candidates Arone, Ziegelbauer and Eirand. I believe that this is extremely important for the future of this community.