Opinion

(The following letter expresses the observations and opinions of the writer and unless named, not the observations or opinions of any other resident, or organization.)

At the Oct. 2 board of education meeting, the board's president, Mr. Seiden, correctly read into the record that under state law, it is the board's responsibility to prepare the annual school budget and to present it to the community for its review and approval. He also correctly stated that the board may delegate the responsibility for the budget's preparation to a non-board member, but then the board still must approve the budget finally submitted to them.

After more than an hour of musing about the budget process (I cannot say that the seven board members actually discussed concrete budget issues), the board did what it does every year, it abrogated its direct responsibility for the preparation of the budget and requested that Dr. Gordon, our superintendent of schools, should prepare it. One board member had mentioned that the preparation of the budget was a difficult task, another had mentioned that different interests had to be taken into account, another had mentioned the slight increase in enrollment and other such generalities were pondered. However, once again, our school board failed to give Dr. Gordon any specific instructions or guidelines to follow in his preparation of the next budget. The board could have said to Dr. Gordon, "We not only represent the interests of the children of our community, but the interests of our community, as a whole. We have taken soundings in the community and based on those, we instruct you to now prepare a budget that reflects a 2.5 percent decrease from the current budget, or, a budget that is no greater in total than the current budget, or, a budget that reflects an increase no greater than 2.5 percent over the current budget."

As a result of our board's failure to give Dr. Gordon any specific instructions or guidelines, we are likely to be presented with a proposed budget early next year that reflects a minimum of a 6 percent increase ($7 million) over the current budget. Thus, another thick layer of spending will be laid on top of the bloated $116 million budget cake that we now have. Dr. Gordon's proposed budget will be based upon the spending "wish lists" submitted to him by his school principals, department heads and administrators. No meaningful effort will have been made by anyone, to reduce current costs, where possible. When presented with the proposed budget, our school board will ask, as they do every year, "Dr. Gordon, is this the budget you must have?" And he will reply as he does every year, "Yes, this is a very tight budget and it is the minimum that I must have to continue to give our kids the very best education that they deserve and must have."

I leave it up to your readership to decide if the rules of this game must be changed.

Joel Katz


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