Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Don't count your chickens before they hatch

Our local school districts are hoping that their representatives in the Assembly and Senate come up with some more money for them to run their school districts.

The state aid is needed, school officials say, in order to prevent local property taxes from skyrocketing.

In a mathematical feat not seen since last year, schools have curbed spending increases to levels like .98 percent, which will result in tax increases in the 7 percent range (Lockport School District), thanks to Gov. George Pataki’s refusal to institute “job killing taxes” at the state level.

Roy-Hart actually cut spending by .3 percent, but will still see a tax levy increase of 5.5 percent.

In Wilson, a 5.3 percent spending increase means a 7.6 tax increase. In Starpoint, 4.9 is 5.9. In Barker, 2.9 becomes 6.4.

Newfane’s budget to budget increase — a whopping 9 percent — would be difficult to swallow on its own. Unfortunately, though, for those fine folks below the escarpment, it translates to a 26 percent tax hike.

Around the state other budget increases equate to much larger tax increases. For example, the proposed budget for schools in Troy, Bruno’s own home base, would increase taxes almost 37 percent. The rural Whitney Point district on the Southern Tier is calling for a 52 percent increase in the tax levy.

Yeah, that’s 52 percent. No typos here.

Legislative leaders are saying that they’ll have a budget together that will give schools more money than that stingy-old Pataki was offering.

It’s unknown, however, how much more they’ll present, when it will be available, and if Pataki would sign off on it or if they’d have the votes to override his impending veto.

Meanwhile, a state aid payment of $1.6 billion to local schools that was expected to arrive on Thursday has been lost in the mail — make that red tape.

That means many school districts will be forced to borrow to make up for the state aid they were expecting but won’t receive on time.

And still local school officials keep their fingers crossed hoping for money from Saint Maziarz and Saint Wirth.

Uncross your fingers and pick up a shovel so we can dig ourselves out of this mess.

Now some officials have been afraid to criticize the previously mentioned saints Maziarz and Wirth for fear that they won’t do their bidding again in the future — and with this notion that they’re still going to come through this year.

Puh-lease.

And let’s not forget that we still have these teachers out in Starpoint that want 5 percent raises and are allergic to paying for any of their health care. “Doug Whelan doesn’t pay for his health care,” I can hear them whine now.

Other teachers’ unions around the county are taking note, I assure you, because if the Starpointers get their demands, they might make a nickel more than somewhere else and there seems to be an unwritten law that all public union contracts have to be for the highest dollar figure ever.

It’s like a never-ending game of poker — no calls, no showing of the cards, just constant raises — and they’re playing with your money.

Maybe I’m alone here, but there seems to be a problem — and it is us.

Time and again, I’ve heard school boards mention programs or projects that they wanted to cut — and I’ve seen people come out and say, “No, that’s important. Cut something else.”

It’s all important, folks. We need to make choices. We need to determine the difference between want and need ... and then choose to hang on to the things that we need and do away with those that we don’t.

Look, I like my satellite a whole lot, but if I have to choose between it and food, I’ll have to forego the MSNBC for a while.

We’re in that predicament now. And we need to choose to eat and wait until we can afford to be entertained.

Since, after all, Saint Maziarz and Saint Wirth are saving us with our own money anyway.