Board of Education Corner – June 2020

Board members in JHS Library

Seated: Susanne Fitzgerald, Evamarie Mraz, Noelle Smrtic. Standing: President Chris Tallon, Vice President Kathy Zajicek, Joe LoDestro. Missing from photo: Beverly Alves, Ron Beck and Pat Oare.

GJSD Board of Education Corner

June 2020

Last night our district suffered another significant setback with the failure to achieve a supermajority approval of our proposed budget.  It is unfortunate that we were so close in our efforts and were able to obtain a 57% approval of our budget proposal, falling just 3% shy of the mandated threshold.  For the second year in a row we had a record number of voters turn out, with just over 2,600 votes returned to the district.  While there are a few positives here for our district, this is where it takes a turn.

Our district worked tirelessly and made enormous sacrifices over the past 12 months to put forth a budget to our voters that not only met the needs of our school district but also was a fair increase to ask our voters to approve.  We understand that the past few months have been difficult for all of us, but no matter how challenging the times we are in, life does not stop in any capacity.

Last year the board was very clear that in order to bring our district back to a more stable financial platform it was going to require a multi year approach.  The anticipated tax levy increase for this year was originally going to be 14%, which for numerous reasons was dwindled down to a reasonable 5%.  And yet, we were still unable to obtain the necessary votes needed to pass our budget.  This makes it the third year in a row our district will potentially go to a second budget vote.  We are lucky we are even going to have that opportunity this year, as up until a week ago we did not believe it would be an option.

At some point each and every resident in our district, including us as board members, are going to have to look themselves in the mirror and ask, What is it I want my community and school district to look like?  To keep voting down budgets because you are upset with past practices of the district, trying to send a message, or because you simply do not care at all about what happens to our school district will only lead to one end result.  That result will be the total decimation and of not only a school district, but also a community.  I would hope that is something that none of us want.

The bottom line is this.  The buck stops here with us as members of this community who will continue to vote on school budgets year after year.  We are not going to get anymore assistance from the state.  We have nothing left to cut out of our budget that would not significantly impact the students within our district.  We have finally kicked that tin can up against a brick wall.

So how do we fix this?  Well this question has been answered multiple times but we will answer it again.  The only thing we can do is to recognize that we have a revenue problem in our district that is not going to go away.  As much as any of us despise, the only way we can do that in a sustainable fashion is to increase our tax revenue that is paid by our district residents, period.

Now myself and others have been on the phone, sent emails, or made online requests to our government officials asking if there is anything they can do to help us out.  The short answer to that is no.

It is up to us as taxpayers to step up to the plate and support this school district, because there is no cavalry coming to save us.  If you think continually voting no is sending a message, you are right.  But it is sending the wrong message and the only people who are suffering are our children of our community who need us more now than ever.

As I conclude I want everyone to remember one thing.  This problem is not going away.  We can go to a revote, which I hope we do, but we will once again need a 60% majority.  If we do not get that we will go to a contingency budget.  But make no mistake about it, that loss of revenue we would endure will be looking at us in the face again next year and the year after that and the year after that.  Voting no does not make the problem go away.

I am going to ask every single one of our district residents to look deep down within themselves and ask what it is they want their community to look like.  Because without a school district you will not have a community at all.  The time to make another great stride to excellence was last night. But, we are lucky we are going to get another shot at this in a few weeks.  So let’s not make the same mistake twice.  Let’s give our children, our school district, and our community what they deserve.  We need your support now more than ever and we hope you can find it within yourself to lend us your support.

Chris Tallon
BOE President