BY YEHUDA WEISSMANDL
When I first joined School Board several years ago, it was not unusual for the District’s proposed budget to be rejected by the taxpayers. Sometimes, the budget was passed in a second vote after some adjustments were made, and other times, it was not passed at all. I was determined to address that problem, and have worked hard – along with other Board members, District administrators and concerned citizens – to change that trend. Fortunately, we have seen good results. For the past three years the School District’s budget has been approved by taxpayers in the first round.
I believe that the new budget reality in East Ramapo is based on the fact that our team has presented the voters a balanced budget with only modest tax increases, and that our approach sought to make the most of available resources while fulfilling commitments to restore programs in our School District in order to make it a better place for all students within our community. Our Board viewed that approach as part of its fiduciary duty, and we have been fortunate to have the voters endorse our approach.
Among the successes we can list are the restoration of some $14 million in public school programming, and the rehiring of teachers and staff to handle that activity. But while these are all positive developments, and should be the source of pride to our community, our work is not done. This year, as in the past, members of the Board struggled to balance District needs with available dollars, and worked to make necessary adjustments to keep District finances balanced. And this year, as in the past, not everyone agreed with all of the Board’s budget proposals. That’s not surprising, since reasonable minds can always disagree on such issues. But, in the final analysis, some compromises need to be made in order to reach a workable solution.
Our focus needs to remain on doing what is best for all of the children in our District, on addressing the needs of our taxpayers, and on doing everything we can to elevate the educational offerings in our schools. We listened to parents and advocates, and we listened to the various interest groups in our community. We worked through issues of educational programming, administrative staffing, extra-curricular activities, art, music and sports programs, and issues relating to transportation. Our proposed budget seeks to deal with all of those issues, and I support the proposed budget.
Your vote for the budget is a vote for our children. It isn’t us versus them, or public school versus private school – it is a vote on a proposal that seeks to balance competing needs, and provides maximum benefits to our school system. And the budget will call upon our taxpayer supporters to give a little more, in order to provide enhanced services to all. I support that approach, and am willing to pay extra tax dollars to help make that happen.
And for those who are concerned about the extra days of busing that will be made available in our District, I ask you to bear in mind that it is the tax dollars of all residents of the District – regardless of where they send their kids to school – who will be paying for that transportation increase. And those increased tax dollars will remain in the school budget long after the increased transportation cost is absorbed by the state in coming years.
The bottom line is that the proposed budget is good for our students and good for our District. For those reasons, I will vote “Yes” on the budget, and hope that you do, as well.
Yehuda Weissmandl is president of the Board of the East Ramapo Central School District. The views expressed in this article are his personal views, and do not reflect the views of the school board