Sunday, May 16, 2010

Doesschate: YES, YES, YES, YES This Tuesday, May 18th

Every May about 3,000 people go to the polls to vote NO on the Albany City School District budget - no matter what the district proposes as a budget.
They go simply to register their opposition to high taxes or dissatisfaction with what they read about our schools.
Last year, about 2,500 voters voted NO despite a $3 million reduction in the district's budget from the year before.

This is an extraordinary budget year. Not only because of the State's fiscal crisis and the resulting $6.7 million cut in State aid to our district, but also because our natural supporters seem to be willing to sit on the sidelines.
The question is: will over 3,000 voters go out and vote YES on our school budget and the no-cost bond issue that will fund some long overdue improvements to Albany High School?
And, if they don't: what more will we need to cut to pass a budget?

The Albany City School Board was forced to make some difficult decisions this year. Because of the $6.7 million cut in State aid and increasing costs, we were forced to make some unpopular cuts and reduce the budget by another $1 million this year. But the reality is, the decisions the Board made will leave the district in very good shape despite this major cut in State aid.

With the SUNY Board of Trustees finally closing the chronically underperforming New Covenant Charter School, the district was able to maintain all of it elementary schools and middle schools with only minor changes to the way some programs are staffed. Needed pre-k, kindergarten, after-school and summer school programs will also be maintained.

At the high school, under the guidance of Dr. Colucciello and our new principal, Dr. McCalla, the District will realize substantial savings from increased scheduling efficiencies and the elimination or consolidation of classes with 10 or fewer students. While this will reduce the choices available to some students, it will not have an overall impact on the quality of the education offered to our students or their ability to take a wide array of advanced course offerings that will position them well for college, graduation and careers.

The district has also incurred other savings through the administrators agreeing to forego raises, energy savings, contractual savings and reductions in supplies, etc.

In these difficult times, difficult choices need to be made. I firmly believe the Albany City School Board has made the right choices and achieved the right balance in preserving essential academic programs and services for our students, and recognizing the need to keep the tax levy increase as low as possible despite the proposed State budget's attempt to shift the State's fiscal problems and the tax burden to municipalities.

I urge you to go to the polls on Tuesday and support the difficult, but excellent, decisions the Albany City School Board has made. I also encourage you to urge your family members, neighbors and friends to do likewise.

Please vote YES on the Albany City School District budget; YES on the no-cost bond issue to address needed renovations at Albany High School; YES on the sale of Philip Livingston Middle School; and YES on the library budget vote.

Judy Doesschate

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