The Clarence School Board passed the 2014 - 2015 budget unanimously on Monday night.
One can only hope that the vultures don't start circling.
The budget will hike spending by less than 2.5%, to $72.5 million. The tax levy will be increased by 3.16%, right at the cap. This means the budget vote on May 20th will not need a supermajority, but merely 50%+1.
The new school tax rate will be $15 per $1,000 of assessed value - up from $14.61 last year, but a marked difference from the almost $17.00/$1,000 residents paid less than 10 years ago.
The impact on a $200,000 home will be $78 this year, but the budget Albany just passed calls for a rebate of that increase because the increase is kept at or below the cap - in other words, the net impact on homeowners who own real estate will be nil.
Of course, there was an argument about replacing crumbling buses. Jim Murphy from the Oak Rock Homeowner's Association - a person who does not own real estate and has a school tax bill of zero - complained about those entitled kids needing new buses. Rick Mancuso explained for the umpteenth time that a bus with 100,000 miles on it, doing local runs, is like a diesel truck with 240,000 miles on it when it comes to maintenance. Some buses are pushing 200,000 miles and need replacing.
What are the buses going to cost?
$4 per year for a $200,000 home. For Jim Murphy, the impact will be zero dollars per year over five years because he rents the lot on which his home is located, and he doesn't pay school taxes. The state helps the district buys the buses, and the amount is bonded and amortized over five years.
What are we complaining about? What is Jim Murphy's concern here? His is a case of representation without taxation - he doesn't have a school tax bill in town, yet gets to vote on the budget.
This crowd keeps on pushing the district to look into privatizing the buses, like we do garbage disposal. But no one cares where their garbage goes - it matters what happens to kids being transported to and from school. The district transports well over 5,000 kids by bus each morning and again in the afternoon, 5 days per week. Where I live, we've had the same bus driver for a decade. She knows our kids, and my kids feel comfortable with her. It's not some stranger from another town with a class B license and no connection with the community or the school. There is a value to having Clarence residents bus Clarence kids.
Call it socialized busing if you want, but there's no evidence that cost or service will improve if the district was to retain the services of a private kid-carting company. In fact, because the people in transportation live in Clarence, we're paying Clarence money to Clarence people, who are going to spend their money in Clarence.
Penny wise, pound foolish is no way to go through life. These people have had their fun - they've come pretty darn close to destroying the schools, but for the intervention of individuals and businesses who donated to CSEF.