If you live in Sandown and you are wondering why your taxes went up so dramatically this year, blame the school district. My own property tax bill that arrived last week went up 11.4%. A whooping 81% of that increase is due to the school district.
Timberlane got $2.2 million more from district taxpayers this year than last. That translated into a 13.9% increase in the school portion of my tax bill (and an overall increase in money from Sandown of 9.5%). Wrap your coat tighter around you because you’re in for the same rough treatment next year if the current proposed school district budget is approved. As the proposed budget stands now (and figuring on revenues as they were projected for 2013-2014), the district is going to need an increase of around $3 million from district taxpayers! [Final revenue numbers not yet available so this is just a best guess estimate.]
I am just one vote on the ten-person Timebrlane School District Budget Committee. I and my fellow Sandown colleague Cathleen Gorman, put forward a motion to eliminate approximately $900,000 from the (2014-2015) proposed budget. It was soundly voted down 8 to 2.
Here are the items I moved to eliminate:
- $17,020 TurnItIn software… budgeted for each middle and high school student to check for plagiarism in their essays As an aside, I was an essay marker for first year college essays when I was in graduate school. I can tell you unequivocally any teacher who troubles themselves to actually read an essay can spot plagiarism a mile away. Neither students nor teachers need this. And teachers certainly don’t need thousands of dollars in training when the training is offered for free with the software.
- $41,800 for the Gates Foundation promulgated Tripod student survey about the learning environment, which is not used to evaluate teachers. This is a national data collection enterprise that we are being asked to pay for with no career consequences for teachers from the administration.
- $100,000 from building maintenance as that budget has been markedly underspent for years.
- $50,000 from Social Security, another line that has been habitually underspent
- $41,000 from professional education services. This is money to educate teachers, over and above the many professional development opportunities they already enjoy. This line has increased by $83,847 over what was spent for this purpose in the 2012-2013 year — an eye popping 147% increase!
- $44,400 for iPads for the proposed Full Time Kindergarten
- $140,000 for software
- $3,000 to replace economics textbooks that don’t seem to exist in the first place [research pending]
- $15,000 for Read 180 software.
- $200,000 from Special Education as this department has been underspent by $300,00 or more for the last three years. [NB: The proposed Special Ed budget is up $1.1 million over what was spent in the 2011-2012 year. That is up more than 14% in three years WITH A DECLINING STUDENT POPULATION.]
- “Special education suite” to interview families at the middle school
- Unknown insurance benefits cost for FIVE new employees. (Given that enrollment has decline 15% since its peak in 2007-2008 while the budget has gone up 15%, I don’t feel any new hires are justified, but in the interest of bringing my fellow members along, I allowed 5 new positions in this budget.)
TOTAL 652,220 + suite costs + insurance costs = unknown amount, but I proposed a total cut of $900,000 some of which would come out of other vastly underexpended line items from the 2012-2013 year (the last year for which the budget committee has expended figures). There’s also $45,000 for laptops for grades 4/5 which may or may not be an error in the budget description. The technology budget went up 44% since the 2012-2013 year. If you’re OK with kindergarten kids having iPads and 4th graders having laptops, perhaps you don’t mind spending nearly $29,000 for kids to go on virtual tours of museums and other presumably educational destinations. Welcome to 13.9% school tax increases as a way of life.
So far the budget committee has removed from this bloated budget just half a percent in salary increases for non-affiliated employees (from 3% to 2.5%) and a generator for the high school for $225,000. The administration on its own has reduced its ask by $701,158 since the first budget draft, $155,000 coming from Special Education which is a step in the right direction. My figures here are all after these reductions. Dr. Metzler has undertaken to return with a final budget slimmed down by another $100,000.
If you find this discouraging, I urge you to follow my blog by clicking the “Follow ” button at the top left hand corner of this screen. Also plan to attend the school district deliberative session on Feb. 6, 2014 at 7 p.m. at the PAC. Only taxpayers can put a lid on these budget increases, and please don’t depend on just voting for the default budget. Although I haven’t yet seen it, the default will retain last year’s increases which I believe should also be rolled back significantly.
Readers note: What the district collects from taxpayers is not the same as the budget increase from year to year. Revenues received by the district affect the amount of money needed from taxpayers. This means that a $2.9 million budget increase as currently proposed does not directly translate into a $2.9 million increase in taxes. It could be more or less depending on the district’s revenues. My projection has it being slightly more at $3.1 million, but actual revenue when it is known may change this. Let’s hope for the better.
For a full breakdown of the 2014-2015 budget and historical trends, send me an email through this blog site. My attempt to save my .ods spreadsheet into an Excel file for publication here results in lots of deleted data.