It is with much frustration that I write this letter. I realize that our taxes are too high - for senior citizens, for struggling middle class families, for everyone. Our school budget was again voted down. This has become the trend not only in Farmingdale, but across Long Island, where it is becoming increasingly difficult to afford to stay. However, I think the public has some misconceptions about the school budget and its development.
This year, the administration developed a proposed budget (which reinstated some of the programs cut last year after initial budget failure) and a contingent budget. This way the public would be better informed as to what a failed budget would bring. I do not believe this was done as a threat by the administration, but rather simply to inform.
The contingent budget sets a cap under which the district can operate without voter approval. Its dollar amount is calculated by some formula mandated by the state that keeps the ratios between administration expenses and instructional expenses at a set level. The resulting factor is then adjusted for cost of living and enrollment growth. The 2005-2006 contingent budget resulted in a 5.72 percent increase in spending over the current year's budget.
What I don't think people realize is that the proposed 2005-2006 budget, that reinstated some of the activities that were cut this year (predominantly at the elementary school level), is an increase of 6.46 percent over this year's current budget. That's not even a percentage point above the contingent budget! This increase in spending (of roughly $842,100) would increase the average annual tax bill by roughly $30 for the whole year.
I know many people who are willing to spend hundreds of dollars to buy the new sweats and bags for their children on Farmingdale Travel Soccer. And a Farmingdale Lacrosse jacket is a mere $55 for each child playing PAL lacrosse - after having already purchased a stick, goggles, mouthguard, and cleats. And how about all those fees we pay for the dance and cheer competitions? Is anybody out there paying for private music lessons? These are all choices we make so that our children remain active and have all the "right stuff." And yet for $30 a year, we could bring back evening concerts for those young budding musicians in the elementary schools. And we could reinstate competition in Odyssey of the Mind for our future Intel Scholarship winners. And our athletes and musicians at Howitt Middle School and Farmingdale High School could have full programs in which to flourish.
Our students deserve the opportunity to be exposed to a wide variety of experiences so that they can develop into well-rounded, knowledgeable adults. Cutting programs will not foster this process. Our school budget is being put up for another vote on June 22. In the past, voter turnout has been dismal at best. I urge every eligible resident to get out and vote. Our children deserve our attention - not just the attention of the 15 percent of the population that actually votes.