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Leave school budgets to elected officials

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Now that most, if not all, area school budgets have been approved for another year, I think it is time to revisit the whole process.

Let me begin by posing a question: how many other budgets must be approved by direct vote before they can pass?

As far as I know, there are none. We don’t directly vote on a federal budget, state budgets, college/university budgets, city, village or town budgets, nor any other that I can think of. There might be occasional bond issues that require a long-term commitment, but nothing else.

The reason is that we have duly elected representatives who do the vetting of the process. They are (or should be) privy to all the details and thinking behind the costs, revenues, and any other relevant facts. They hopefully have our interests in mind when they develop these budgets. If they don’t, their jobs are in jeopardy.

I moved to New York from a Midwestern state, where there was, and still is, no such thing as direct school budget voting. The school board, which included a representative from most towns, villages, and cities in the district, developed the budget with input from citizens, professionals and others, but in the end, they were responsible for the product. Yes, there was controversy, but knee-jerk emotions were largely left out of it.

As a taxpayer in the General Brown district, I probably have been following this subject this year a little more than usual. The average taxpayer is hard-pressed to understand how a school budget works, how it impacts them, and all of the responsibilities that a school district has. I know that my eyes were opened and probably a lot of others’ as well. I am convinced that the budget development and implementation is just too important to be left to the casual voter. For example, I am certain that a number of people believed that a 5 percent increase in a tax levy meant that their property taxes would go up 5 percent. This is not the case. But to convince those people otherwise takes both time and money, neither of which is plentiful and which is also better spent elsewhere.

It is time to consider eliminating this artifact of a much simpler era and leave the budget process to a group of trusted, better informed elected officials.

Larry Wollum

Watertown

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