Monday, February 7, 2011

Handwriting on the Wall?

We had all good intentions of addressing one or two of the items mentioned yesterday as issues about which community folks had expressed concern.
Unfortunately, life got in the way as they say, in the form of tonights second (and final?) Community Budget Forum.
First, to those who attended (either in person or on line) and on behalf of all those concerned, "THANK YOU" for doing so - your (our) voice being heard by those who will make the final decisions is critical.
For those who were unable to attend, we wish we could report better news, and perhaps others will have come away with a more positive impression, but mine is anything but positive.
Indeed, while no firm announcement or commitment was made regarding Clarksville, it most certainly did feel like the "handwriting is on the wall".
For those interested in the details, the transcript and recorded webinar should be available on the district website within the next couple days.
By way of a brief recap though, the forum began with an overview of where the proposed budget stands at this very preliminary point in the process and, as in past years and to no one's surprise the picture isn't a pretty one.
Simply put, with increased costs in mandated programs, general "cost of living" increases which affect the district as they affect each of us, increases in payroll, insurance, and pension contributions, the budget will increase as it has every year. The budget increase, combined with significant cuts in state funding and a general unwillingness on the part of all of us as taxpayers to accept the never ending tax increases creates the situation we find ourselves in each year at this time.
The "situation", or "gap", or "deficit" - call it what you will, is somewhere in the neighborhood of $5 million and one way or another that gap will have to be closed. Cutting costs or raising revenue (higher tax increases) really are the only alternatives.
While each of us probably has our own ideas on how to solve the problem, what it comes down to is priorities - what is important and what really matters to us.
For some, taxes are all that matters - ANY increase is unacceptable. Others are willing to accept a 2 or 3 or 5% increase and the cuts in programs and services that would be necessary to achieve such a level. Still others would argue for and support whatever level would be required so as to prevent any further cuts to programs that have already arguably been "cut to the bone".
That further cuts will undoubtedly have to be made to arrive somewhere near that middle group if the budget is to garner enough support to pass goes without saying.
Where those cuts will be made though is the question - what really matters to us?
Quite honestly, I don't envy those having to make the decisions one bit.
None of this changes the fact though that closing Clarksville ought NOT be THE prime candidate for solving the budget woes of the district (even if it would). Especially when it appears that even if closure of one elementary school can be justified, Clarksville is the only school under consideration.
A number of people spoke up at the forum and voiced some excellent points - kudos to you for doing so, keep up the good work and hopefully others will follow in your footsteps both at future meetings and by continued email contact with the BOA.
Unfortunately a significant portion of the time allotted was taken up discussing the proposal to "put a computer in every kids hand" which you've probably heard discussed.
While a laudable goal, it appeared to many in attendance to be simply beyond the pale that an equal amount of time was spent discussing the expenditure of (at least) $8 million (over 5 years) when at the same time considering having to close Clarksville in order to save a purported five hundred thousand ("or so").
Priorities and what really matters?
In short, while "officially" nothing has been decided - it does indeed seem that the handwriting is on the wall and it's going to take a concerted effort by all those concerned to right the ship.
Attend the BOA Meeting - Wednesday, 2/9/11
Make your feelings known.


Anonymous said...

I sincerely hope Clarkville will remain open, it is a cornerstone in the Village. Bethlehem School District should redistrict. It is a community-based school with a big heart.

Anonymous said...

This could be a great conversation. Please keep this going.

lily said...

It seems that if we win the fight and the school is kept open, it will be very temporary. Do we want to fight for one last year when that last year may not be in the kids' best interest? Dragging out the inevitable? Making for a depressing final year before closure?

Anonymous said...

Is there a way to formally choose no to the petition signing? And have a record of non-signatures tallied as well?

Anonymous said...

Re lily
The goal here is not to drag out the inevitable but to insure a fair outcome. Clarksville Elementary has been an easy target for years and we have never been so vulnerable for same reason that the district won't redistrict. That is the fear of being unpopular. The redistricting conversations are ugly and affect many and we are small. They see small as weak. We alone can not vote down their budget or enlist the numbers the fight the fight they face for redistricting. We are the sacrificial lamb but that doesn't mean we lay down and take it. The reason we are fighting is because we believe in Clarksville Elementary and being there is in our kids best interest. If the school is to be closed, my kids will not be depressed, I will be. Are you sure that is they way your kids will feel and not the way you will feel? My kids love their school.

Anonymous said...

Re: lily
No, we fight and keep fighting. This school IS in my children's best interest. I would choose this school over every other school in the district, time and time again.
This school is why our family chose to live where we do. We could have moved near any other school in the disrtict. We CHOSE to be at CES. You touched on a good point..."the inevitable". Why does CES always have the moniker "the inevitable"? I have never heard that tag for any other school.
To counter your point-"Reality always forms around commitment".
We are a committed bunch!

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