Opinion: Aren’t the children our first priority?

Dear Editor,

In 2012, New York State put the nation’s highest cost public school system on a diet with the 2 percent Property Tax Cap (PTC) formula. Despite howling of the invested, New York State’s mediocre K-12 has not collapsed or improved. 

In 2014 the PTC limited OACSD to a .015 percent or $2,700 increase. The Board of Education (BOE) required the .0000636 percent or 6/100000 property tax increase for the children. Neither tax increases nor state funding could keep up with the BOE’s priority of ever-higher union compensation at the children’s expense. 

Nine teachers and eight teachers’ aides, amongst others, were cut. This defined fiscal management as shortchanging the children. At the same time, the district’s third through eighth grade educational performance was mediocre, as documented by the New York State Education Department, as well as below that consistent with our demographics.  

In 2014 it could not have been clearer how damaging the unbounded salary increases were for the children. In the two following teacher union contracts the divergence from prevailing norms only increased. 

This past year, taxpayers kept the BOE on a diet by allowing only a 2.8 percent in lieu of 3.8 percent. This 1 percent, or $164,000 limitation amounted to one third of 1 percent of the budget. Per the BOE, 100 percent of this was taken from resources absolutely essential for the children. 

In the Annual Budget Newsletters the OACSD BOE boasts how low it has kept property tax increases. This is so disingenuous as to be insulting. The BOE has consistently maximized the increases allowable by the PTC formula. 

Voters also restrained tax increases in 2011 and 2018. The PTC formula reflects the declining and/or stagnant property tax base of OACSD and low inflation. The questions for the BOE should be – 1. Is there any limit on how much is needed? 2. Why will the coming proposed property tax increase be exactly equal to that allowed by the PTC formula? 3. Will the unbounded increasing allocation of funds to increased salaries and benefits ever stop? 4. What benefit has accrued to students resulted from the excessive compensation policy? 5. Why did the BOE remove all duties of stewardship for public funds from its governance documents?

In the 10 year reign of our prior superintendent, salaries increased faster than any other District in the State and academic performance as documented by NYSED was below that consistent with our demographics. Since arrival of Superintendent Greene, academic performance appears to be coming up to standards consistent with demographics. 

All of Mr. Greene’s value-add has no correlation to more money for unions. This value-add relates to the improved quality human resources not more money for salaries and benefits. 

Our Superintendent works to the direction of the BOE. Superintendent Greene and his staff are fully capable of budgetary and financial management; however this is contrary to BOE policy. By nine years of actions and omissions this BOE policy is etched in stone. 

Higher taxes have only resulted in declining value. Recall Cuomo’s teacher Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) to improve professional performance. The problems with the APPR have been FIXED. The New York State Union of Teachers stated on April 16, 2019, “New York State assessment scores will no longer have to be included in teacher ratings. Instead, all Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) decisions will be subject to local collective bargaining [the teachers union].” 

Instead let’s award participation trophies and be done with it, as it is a colossal waste of time and money. Recall the caterwauling when Cuomo implemented APPR. Not a whimper that it has been neutered in the dark of night. Are not the children the first priority, if any? 


Haig McNamee

Owego, N.Y.

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