Can these unrelenting cost increases be sustained?

To the Editor:

In Guilderland, two large bond referendums (school district and library) go before voters on Tuesday, May 21. With the state tax cap in place on annual budgets, the school administration has turned to voter referendums (borrowing) as a way of getting around the tax cap.

This past October, the district proposed a $43-million bond that voters rejected [The Altamont Enterprise, Oct. 16, 2018: “Voters defeat $43M school project by 58 votes”]. According to my Freedom of Information Law request, that amount was more than twice as much as any school bond act proposed here in the last 10 years. On Tuesday, voters will be asked again to approve a $31-million referendum that would cost the average Guilderland homeowner nearly $1,000 over the 15-year term of the bond.

Nearly 80 percent of the Guilderland school budget goes to personnel costs; that’s salaries and benefits for employees. That is about $80 million a year. That leaves the remaining 20 percent for everything else, for security equipment for our kids’ safety, heating and cooling, roofing and paving, improved science labs, sports equipment, you name it. Just 10 years ago, personnel costs were 75 percent of the budget. Can these unrelenting cost increases be sustained?

District spending increases have occurred even though the district has 16 percent fewer students today than it had 15 years ago.

Is the answer to keep raising your taxes? Over the years, I have campaigned on every Guilderland street and have heard this again and again: “As soon as my kids are out of school, I’m out of here.”

It breaks my heart to hear it. High local taxes, coupled with the state’s onerous tax climate, are driving people away. School-district administrators, the school board, and employees must work cooperatively to manage costs better.

As for the library’s expansion plan, this is a scaled-down version of a 2012 proposal that voters rejected then by a 3-to-1 margin. Though library Director Tim Wiles and the trustees have worked hard on this plan, the proposed $8.3-million project is still twice the library’s entire annual budget. [The Altamont Enterprise, May 9, 2019: “Referendum for $7M: Library update would increase children and adult space”].

Guilderland voters are quite capable of making up their own minds. Be sure to do your homework and exercise your right to vote. Please do so with a full understanding of the numbers and our current predicament.

Mark Grimm


Editor’s note: Mark Grimm is an Albany County legislator, representing part of Guilderland.

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