Having earned my Masters of Arts in Economics from Rutgers University, it is easy to understand the revenue based funding that Mr. Lane has referred to many times during the BOE budget forums. The reason our district is losing so many of our teachers and programs is a direct result of the 2% revenue cap that we must adhere to.
I have previous work experience in the regulated industry of telephony (at National Exchange Carrier Association in Whippany), where I had worked as a forecasting and demand analyst for over 10 years. During that time, I became very familiar with rate of return and price (and revenue) cap regulation that exist in regulated infrastructures. Education is certainly regulated by our state government and the mandated 2% revenue cap has caused cuts in our programs and staff for the last few years. Our taxpayers are all certainly feeling the pain of this recession, and so are our children. The recent cuts in programs and positions are hurting our students today, and the future of public education is not looking very bright. That was never more apparent than at the Board of Education meeting held on Tuesday March 29th. The room was packed with parents, students and teachers who were crying out for restorations in the music program, because the cuts were just too deep!
We can’t continue along this path. We need to discover new and innovative ways to save money on the ever increasing expenses and also create opportunities for the students through outside funding. I applaud Nicole Sherrin, the MJS staff and its PTO for their innovative idea of “MJS Academy” - an after school weekly activity, taught by the teachers, which charges a minimal fee to participants. This program will partially fund the 8thgrade electives for next year. Innovative programs such as these can help to close some of the budget gaps that exist today.
Revenue generation is another way to close the budget gap. I have been researching what other districts have done to increase revenues. I was impressed with some of the methods used by others which resulted in a sustained increase of funds. For example, an increase in facility rental fees and the development of an advertising policy to advertise at the high school were suggestions that I think Madison should consider. Grants were another idea. However, we need to come up with ways to increase revenue that will be sustained over time. Otherwise, we will once again be placed in a position where the money is available for positions for only a year, and then the position is in jeopardy the following year. While it is better to fund a position for a year, than not at all; we need to plan for the long-term and look toward recurring revenues as a priority.
Cost / Benefit analysis is the key to operating under revenue caps. We need to cut costs because people are tired of being taxed to the extreme. This year’s proposed budget is asking for an increase of less than $10 per month on the average home.
As a BOE candidate, many people have engaged me in conversations regarding their concerns of the budget cuts, and several people have stated outright that they do not support the budget. Although I respect their concerns, I ask for everyone to consider the fact that if this budget fails, it will only lead to further cuts and hurt the students even more. Even if you disagree with the way the money is distributed, please reflect that issue in your choices for the seats on the board and not in the budget itself.
Over the last several weeks, I have stated my beliefs regarding the decisions of the BOE that I would have done differently. Among them: The recent tenure of the current Business Administrator with only seven months of service in Madison; the painful cuts in the music program that resulted in passionate and overwhelming pleas from community members to find other options; and, the lack of communication between the BOE and the public, just to name a few. Again I would like to extend the offer to communicate with me regarding these and any other concerns you may have. Please reach out to me at email@example.com to voice your concerns.
Again, it’s all a matter of economics. If you can’t afford an extra $10 a month to come out of your pocket, I understand. If however, your main concern is regarding the issues surrounding how the money is being allocated, then you need to make that known in your choice of board membership. There are 3 open seats on the BOE this month. Perhaps it is time for a change in the make-up of the Board. Let’s do it for our children; let’s do the right thing; let’s do it on April 27thfor Madison!