School districts are the single largest sector of local government in New York State, accounting for nearly half of all local government revenues and expenditures. In 2007, New York spent more than $52 billion to educate children in our state. Largely as a result of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds this year, school districts will receive $405 million more in state aid, which is up 2 percent from last year.
Any way you slice it, that’s a lot of money. School districts across Chenango County have worked diligently this year to balance the needs of our children with an ever-changing financial picture. Most budgets represent slim increases from the prior year as school administrators struggle to meet educational requirements while still making it affordable – or at least bearable – to the taxpayers who fund it.
Today, you’ll get your chance to grade them on the job they’ve done. No bell curve needed here; all you have to do is click ‘Yes’ or ‘No.’
Education is and should be one of government’s top priorities. The correlation between good schools and a good economy has never been more evident; that’s why we invest so strongly in education in New York. That’s also why it’s imperative that New Yorkers take an active role in their local school districts. Taxpayers should help make sure that investment pays off.
On the third Tuesday of every May, school districts present their budgets to the voters. Voters also select who will represent them on their local school boards. Unfortunately, turnout for school budget elections has traditionally been low. Interesting, because kvetching about education spending and school board representation is traditionally high.
Don’t be fooled by the ‘done deal’ mentality. And don’t think that just because there are few actual ‘races’ for school board seats, that your vote isn’t important. This year in Chenango County, a few districts will see board of ed seats decided by write-in ballots. In others, those seeking to return to their posts need to see the confidence – or lack thereof – in their representation manifested by actual votes. Even when presented with a lack of choices, this is still an important decision.
This year, active participation by taxpayers is even more important because many school districts are facing tough choices to balance their budgets. School districts need to hear what you think of their decisions – and voting today is your primary means of doing so.
Today, it’s up to you to do your part to protect this enormous investment. Take the time to learn more about your school district’s budget, and those who seek to represent you, and then vote – in most districts, you have until 8 or 9 tonight. It’s your money, and it’s your children’s future. Take it seriously; your vote really does count.