Tax activist: Say no to buses

As a school bus referendum draws closer, one activist is urging voters to shoot down the proposed pu
PHOTOGRAPHER:

As a school bus referendum draws closer, one activist is urging voters to shoot down the proposed purchase.

Ordinarily, said taxpayer activist Jack Kinzie, he would support the Gloversville school district’s proposal to buy $190,000 worth of buses when the local share of the purchase is only $19,000.

Kinzie supported the proposal last August when the district held a special election to try a second time to win approval for five buses at a total cost of $450,000, but a local cost of only $45,000.

In a situation that closely mirrors the district’s election choices in 2007, Gloversville voters will be asked to give buses a second look in a special Aug. 18 election. Voters rejected the purchase the first time around, in May.

“We both know financially it’s foolish to reject an opportunity to buy buses at 10 cents on the dollar,” Kinzie told a reporter. “But,” he said, “that school board shafted the public and I advocate we shaft them back.”

Kinzie said he is angry that the board responded to an over 2-to-1 rejection of the $50.7 million budget and its 6.9 percent tax increase by adopting an almost identical contingency budget with the same tax increase.

Board President Perry Paul said he understands Kinzie’s point of view, but said that cuts in past years went so deep there were no apparent options to reduce the tax increase.

Just to support spending levels from last year, Paul said, required a 4.7 percent tax levy increase and that did not address increasing costs for utility bills, health insurance and other contractual employee costs.

Paul said Kinzie’s real grievance is with the state, which establishes the mandated costs and methods for adopting a contingency budget.

If the state Department of Transportation inspects the district’s buses and takes some off the road, Paul said, a failure to buy two vehicles at 10 cents on the dollar might compel the district into a situation where it must pay full price for replacements.

School officials said the $190,000 could buy two large buses or one large bus, two vans and a Suburban.

Last year, the budget and buses were both rejected in May, but after the board offered a zero tax increase, they were approved in separate special elections.

This past May, voters turned down the budget, 1,189 to 513, but rejected the buses by a much closer 876-to-728 vote.

In June, after those rejections, the board voted to adopt a contingency budget only $4,000 less than the first proposal but opted to hold a new bus election.

Kinzie, founder of Fulton County Taxpayers Association, closely monitors school districts and local governments. He attends meetings, writes letters, and has a public access television show to further his message, and has gained some influence in his role.

He said he is growing more exasperated as the school board is finding ways to reverse budget cuts made before the May election, including elimination of three elementary librarian positions at a cost of $200,000 and seventh-grade sports at a cost of over $40,000.

Kinzie said he supported maintaining those two items in the original budget because librarians and sports are part of what he called the core educational program. But, he said, the way it is being handled is an affront to the taxpayers.

The $200,000 used to restore the library positions, he said, is the supplemental aid obtained by state Sen. Hugh T. Farley, R-Niskayuna, after the budget rejection. Kinzie said that funding should have been used for tax stability.

Kinzie said the board owed it to taxpayers to make a concerted effort to trim the tax increase before adopting a contingency budget.

Categories: Schenectady County

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