This time the often-repeated phrase was “we can’t leave money on the table.” Well, that “table” is somebody’s pocket and those pockets belong to people who are out of work, on fixed income, or are taking pay cuts. I tried to sway the board from only considering tax increases, but I could not gain the support of a single member.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Stephen J. Zilora sent this letter to Carole Nasra, president of the Penfield Central School District Board of Education.
When I joined the board seven years ago, I believed that we needed to focus on education and that by doing so we could deliver a quality education to our students at a reasonable cost. At that time, it appeared to me that most board members were focused on providing as much as possible to our students regardless of the purpose or the cost.
That changed slowly but surely over the next several years with the addition of new board members and a new superintendent. Several years of small budget increases and large gains in test scores and awards followed; I am proud to have been part of that change.
Being a good board member takes significant time and effort. It is possible to get by without preparing and just relying on others, but that is not how I like to work. While I once had the spare time and energy to devote to many different activities, that is no longer the case. I now need to choose activities in which my investment of time will have an impact. Unfortunately, that no longer includes this board.
The current budget discussion is an excellent example. As is always the case, our first pass budget required significantly more revenue than last year. The difference from past years is this year the conversation was about how much we should raise taxes, not where we could cut expenses. The only cuts we considered were those that had already taken place due to resignations and other similar situations.
At our recent budget workshop Dr. Sansouci laid out over $2 million in possible cuts that the board chose to ignore — we did not seriously consider a single one of them. In the past we talked about fees for services, establishment of a foundation, cutting back on some of our language classes and electives, pay freezes for district office administrators, renegotiations with the unions, and many other ideas, but not this time. This time the often-repeated phrase was “we can’t leave money on the table.” Well, that “table” is somebody’s pocket and those pockets belong to people who are out of work, on fixed income, or are taking pay cuts. I tried to sway the board from only considering tax increases, but I could not gain the support of a single member.
I am well aware of the implications of the tax levy limit legislation. Some members of this board bragged that they were not math people, but that they “got it.” I am a math person and a businessperson and I get it too. And what I get is that we are debating a false dichotomy. It is not a matter of “use it or lose it” as was stated repeatedly at the workshop. That is false. The only consequence of not collecting more than we need this year is that we might, just might, need more than the levy limit next year. But again, I was unable to change anyone’s mind.
Page 2 of 2 - I believe we are on this earth to help one another and to have a positive impact on others’ lives. Since I am no longer able to have an impact on this board or our students’ education, I am hereby resigning my position effective immediately so that I can devote my spare time to more rewarding activities.
STEPHEN J. ZILORA