Opinion

Last month Superintendent Richman acknowledged that people in the Roslyn School District were struggling financially in the current economic free fall, but then went on to recommend a budget increase of 3.68 percent. I was curious to see how $94 million was spent this year for its 3,400 pupils and recently have attended two board meetings and one BAC meeting, obtaining a copy of the "Proposed Detailed Budget Report." After examining all 148 pages, I can report that it is impossible to follow the money. Dozens of new codes have been created over the past few years, in some cases explained in detail, but the vast majority of codes remain entirely unexplained. For example, interscholastic athletics (separate from intramural sports) has 32 sub accounts, adding up to $1.3 million in 2008-09 (up from $1.1 million in 2007-2008 with a request for an additional $44,735 for next year) most of which have no explanation. Intramural sports cost $66,500 in 2007-08, $77,000 this year and $91,000 is proposed for next year, again without explaining how those funds are allocated.

Without knowing how much items cost, how can the Board determine whether we can continue to afford them? It is impossible to know what economies of scale can be brought to bear, where efficiencies can be implemented and where redundancies occur, unless the total lack of transparency in this budget is rectified. One of my favorite sections of the budget is Materials and Supplies (450), where page after page has "various supplies" as the only description with a grand total of $1.3 million (up from $1.2 million last year). Another favorite is Field Trips (448) which does not distinguish between classroom trips and club adventures and is projected to increase by five percent to $278,000 (does not include transportation). Did you know that the one-day physics trip to Great Adventure costs about $14,000? Did you know that in Port Washington, all field trips are funded by the parents?

Are you aware that it costs: for golf teams for 30 kids $19,570; bowling teams for 52 kids $18,785 (excludes transportation costs); outside teaching consultants $101,000; travel & conferences $117,000; remedial summer program for 200 kids is $285,000? How about reducing the administration budget by eliminating the dean at the high school and one of the two assistant principals at the middle school or reducing transportation expenses by eliminating busing if you live less than one mile from the school? Can we support to 57 different clubs in the high school? Instead of coming up with creative revenue streams or setting funding limits on enrichment programs, the board just asks for more money from its taxpayers. But this blank check mentality must be challenged given the dire financial times we are in. We are all doing belt tightening at home, so why can't this board act responsibly and do the same?

There is no reason to even consider any budgetary increase. If the board would perform due diligence and scrutinize a true accounting of how monies are spent and not simply build on last year's budget, then the draconian cuts proposed by Dr. Richman geared to hit us in our sweet spot would not be necessary.

Please ask the Board (new email address: boardofed@roslynschools.org) to have the necessary conversations, make the tough choices and not to kowtow to this Superintendent.

Dr. Lea Dann


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