Friday, 04 June 2010 00:00Had the Herricks school budget passed by a single vote, all would be well. Since it failed by the same margin, it’s a crisis. School board candidates ran unopposed. Budget meetings were sparsely attended. School administrators and board members were in confident denial.
Back in July 2009 Herricks teachers got a generous five-year contract. School administrators, clerical and custodial employees did well too. The superintendent of Schools signed a five-year deal giving him a 22 percent pay raise with closing annual salary exceeding $300,000. High fives all around. No worries or concerns about paying for these contracts. No concessions to the realities of recession here in Herricks, where families don’t struggle to survive, people don’t lose their jobs and homes don’t fall into foreclosure.
They knew about the massive pension system shortfall. They knew about the financial meltdown in Albany. They knew about the MTA payroll tax. They knew the flow of federal stimulus funds would dry up. Why was there no concern then about preserving educational programs, class size, school sports and afterschool activities? They smugly chose to ignore the facts because Herricks taxpayers always take up their slack and pay off the tab.
So now we will see more budget meetings, which have become as scripted and choreographed as one of Rich Buckley’s old musical productions. Bulk mailings will highlight token budget reductions, while defending new spending as “contractual obligations.” Desperate phone chains will urge all to return to the polls on June 15 and ratify an ever so slightly amended version of the same padded budget. After all, it only has to pass by one vote. Wouldn’t that be ironic? Then all the scrutiny of contracts, salaries and tax levies can end and all can be well once again in Herricks.
Timothy F. O’Leary